Work-related events are an excellent way to get to know your fellow employees on a more personal level, especially if you're new to the company or even new to the city. These types of events are meant to be a fun and relaxing way to de-stress and bond with coworkers, but they are paid for by the company. Despite that, you cannot act the same way that you would when hanging out with your buddies at the bar. There have to be limits.
How should you act at a work-related event?
The rules enforced by the company at these events are usually relaxed quite a bit in order to preserve the spirit of the event. But the employee is still a representative of the company. The best rule of thumb is to behave in the same way you would in the office space. Avoid overly obnoxious behavior, limit the consumption of alcohol, talk in a polite manner, etc.
When is the company liable for your behavior outside of work?
How to behave at a company function really comes down to common sense. The bigger issue is when does your work life stop and your personal/social life begin? Can these two overlap? A company does not own its employees, so they cannot police every aspect of your life. That does not mean you can go home and do whatever you want and never have the possibility of your boss finding out. What you do in your personal time is all you and no one is here to scrutinize that. There are stories being passed around on the news and between friends all the time about people being fired when information went public that these individuals engaged in illegal activities including drugs, domestic abuse, etc.
"An employer can stipulate about behavior in private. This is known as a moral clause and is standard in many celebrity contracts," says Brian Palmer, an employment lawyer for Charles Russell. An employer has the right to fire an employee if they go out on their time off and claim to be doing something in the name of the company or with special authority given to them by the company that was never actually granted. Also, when an employee, in their own time, tries to publicly discredit a fellow coworker or superior with false accusations, this, of course, is a serious offense.
When is a company not liable for your behavior outside of work?
It can be an extremely fine line between opinion and slander when talking about freedom of speech. An employee has the right to give his free and honest opinion about a company as long as what he or she is saying is based on truth. If an employee merely dislikes a boss or fellow coworker, he or she cannot be fired for giving their honest opinion as long as what they say is not slander. Slander, after all, is a crime.
All in all, it really is a gray area between what a company is and is not liable for regarding employees' personal time. Most cases need to be looked at individually to understand the context. Just do not do anything you would be ashamed to openly tell the world about yourself.