The holiday spirit is in the air! It’s that time of year when everyone in the office looks forward to a small break from their day-to-day to enjoy a little holiday fun with coworkers. As a business owner, you’ll want to make sure that your company is planning a holiday party that the entire staff can really enjoy. But as you are deciding on the venue, food, and entertainment, you need to be sure that you are also considering and planning for the risks involved with hosting an office holiday party.
Trying to minimize the risks is an essential part of office holiday party planning. Party clothes, games, contests, and dancing can lead to inappropriate conduct. And this can additionally be amplified by alcohol, which – as we all know – impairs judgment. It’s an unfortunate fact that partying with alcohol has more than once led to employer liability for sexual harassment. Employers can also be held liable to third-parties for property damage and wrongful death due to inebriated employees driving home from company-sponsored events.
To reduce the risk of liability, employers should consider taking the following 10 steps when planning a holiday party for their company:
1. Prepare and disseminate a strong policy prohibiting sexual harassment at work and at employer-sponsored events, such as parties, picnics, and conventions.
2. Prior to the event, remind employees that company standards of conduct and anti-harassment policies remain in full force and effect, even at company social events.
3. Remind managers of their responsibility for enforcing company policies during the party, even when it takes place after work and off premises.
4. Consider distributing drink tickets to limit individuals’ alcohol consumption.
5. Hire a professional bartender who will pour drinks and know when to cut off anyone who has had enough alcohol.
6. Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages.
7. Arrange for designated drivers and company-paid taxis.
8. Make sure that alcohol service ends well before the party officially ends.
9. Consider having the party during the day time or as a family event to limit the consumption of alcohol (e.g., spouses may be more likely to monitor the employee’s drinking or act as the designated driver).
10. Act appropriately and swiftly if a complaint is made.