Perhaps there is a more legitimate, business-related reason for the directive, such as the manager is encouraging the employee to get involved with industry groups, or to be networking or entertaining clients in the evening instead of socializing with co-workers.Times when they tell you not to dine with coworkers: * Dinnertime falls during work, and they want to stagger your breaks rather than having a bunch of you gone at once.* The dinner is actually a date, and you’re the date’s manager.However, barring that type of law, there is no direct answer.From a management standpoint, I share your reaction that the directive is bizarre. Does the manager consider these co-workers a bad influence on the employee and is instructing the employee not to hang out with those “bad seeds,” like a parent would?and even if you weren’t talking about work at all at these dinners, a prohibition on them would likely be considered to have a chilling effect on your rights under the NLRA.Bryan Cavanaugh, an employment lawyer in Missouri, was kind enough to weigh in on this question and says: Some states, including New York and California, have laws that explicitly protect an employee’s lawful activities off the clock and off the employer’s premises.* The nature of your job is one that gives them legal cover for controlling who you socialize with.
However, what’s their rationale for telling you that you can’t go out to dinner with coworkers?Depending on the answer to that, there’s a good chance that’s illegal.But absent a legitimate reason like these, they’re on very thin ice trying to prevent you from socializing with coworkers outside of work hours.The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prevents employers from interfering with employees discussing wages and working conditions with each other …You can’t say no to attending team dinners if your employer requires them.
(Well, you could say no, but they could fire you for refusing.) However, they do need to pay you for this time if you’re non-exempt.