Mumbrella’s illicit after-party raises the question: What are the rules of work drinks?

Christmas office mumbrella

Parent company boss David Longman says he wanted to get on the front foot about the incident which happened after Mumbrella's Christmas party.

Two people have left Mumbrella after the Christmas party turned into an office after-party where drugs were allegedly purchased, according to the parent company’s boss.

Diversified Communications’ David Longman wrote a self-described “uncomfortable” article this week about the saga at Mumbrella, a media and marketing industry news website.

After the end-of-year event in Sydney, a small group of staff continued onto Mumbrella‘s Walker Street office, where Longman alleges “illicit drugs were purchased, distributed and consumed”.

The staff involved ranged from junior to “more senior”, he added. The incident was reported and a full investigation followed, leading to the resignation of two unnamed staff.

Longman says the company does not “condone this type of behaviour as it goes against the company values and code of conduct”.

What can other businesses learn from this?

One of the most important tests for after-hours gatherings is whether the activity is in some way “a work-sponsored or endorsed event”, Workplace Law managing director and principal Athena Koelmeyer says.

Koelmeyer says it could look like a few different scenarios: “If the company is paying for drinks, if a manager is paying for drinks, [or] if the lunch-time football team is sponsored by the company”, for example.

Longman didn’t go into specifics in his article, only describing the after-party taking place in an “unofficial capacity”, but Koelmeyer says it seems the investigation was satisfied that “the drinks were a work-sponsored event”.

So “the rules of the employment relationship continued to apply to the event”, she tells SmartCompany.

Longman continued that the consequences for those staff members (as well as his disclosure) were also to maintain the reputation of Mumbrella, which has “a long history of holding the media and marketing industry to account” and has been a “strong supporter of diversity, culture and a safe working environment”.

Interestingly, Mumbrella‘s founder Tim Burrowes posted a rather more candid blog post about the “bombshell”, though wasn’t in attendance at the event, having left the business earlier last year.

He says staff had just moved into a large office that was “far swankier, and more corporate, than our poky old previous home in Chippendale”, complete with outdoor deck, which could be partly why they ended up back there.

And, he alleges, “they got into the bags” at the office — an apparent reference to cocaine — but continued that he was sure “Mumbrella’s party was not the only one in the industry that had a white Christmas”.

Koelmeyer says the fact the team were back on work premises means anything that happens next “will almost certainly be linked to the employment relationship” — even though the staff were not technically there during office hours.

“The rules that apply to conduct in the workplace would apply and if the employees breached them — regardless of the time, the employer can (and should) take action,” she explains.

An easy fix for those who want to engage in raucous behaviour? Kick on to another location, not the workplace, Koelmeyer says, and ensure management isn’t shouting drinks — or anything worse.

“That would probably be enough … anything happening at the new location would be on the employee’s own time,” she says.

Diversified Communications was approached for comment.

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Simon Mackay
Simon Mackay
3 months ago

Another question that can easily come about is where a manager puts their own personal resources to the event without any corporate reimbursement. For example, paying for the team’s drinks from their personal funds or hosting the event at their own home. Could the issue of workplace liability still be raised in these situations because of the workplace relationship.

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