I am a Project Manager who was reprimanded for going out to a restaurant for lunch with several employees. One of them had a beer and upon returning to the office he commented to the newly appointed (inexperienced and unqualified) “Executive Assistant” what she missed for not going with us. I don’t believe the company is liable if we are hourly paid employees during a lunch not paid by the company and not related to work in any way. I would like to clear the air before my upcoming performance review.
Your “inexperienced and unqualified” executive assistant apparently knows enough to know that drinking at lunch is inappropriate. Telling her that she missed out on such an event further indicates a lack of maturity on your team’s part.
Here is Evil HR Lady’s rule of co-workers: When you are with people you work with you are AT WORK. This means that even though you weren’t getting paid, you should consider a lunch out, at work. Think about it this way. If you had sexually harassed a co-worker instead of watching him drink alcohol, could you successfully argue that “hey, we were at lunch, not work, so I can harass him all I want”? I didn’t think so.
And here is the Management Corollary: When you are with people who you manage (either as a true manager or as a project manager), you are still the boss and their actions will reflect upon you accordingly. This is true, again, even if you are on your “own time.”
Alcohol at lunch is downright stupid. Sure, it’s your “own time,” but do you want to have an employee who was drinking 30 minutes ago working for you? Of course not. (Well, you do, but most people do not.)
Sure, I’ve heard rumors of the 3 martini lunch, but those days are gone. (At least in my experience. I’ve never worked in investment banking and even if I did, I don’t drink at all.)
I don’t know squat about the liability issues (not a lawyer, remember?), but I do know that you should suck it up, admit you were wrong and grovel for forgiveness at your performance review. Yes, I understand that you weren’t drinking, but you obviously condoned the activity and blamed the Exec Assistant for your problems and judgment lapse.
And next time, if going out to lunch brings temptations inappropriate for the office, stick to the company cafeteria.