Dec 02 2013

Holiday Parties Require Extra Caution for Employers

Chanukah is in full-swing, and some companies and organizations are hosting their holiday parties already. The rules that govern liability don’t take an afternoon off, and hosts of these parties expose themselves to any number of problems if they aren’t careful. Employers who plan to hold holiday parties for the company should be mindful of the following tips.

  • If you are going to serve alcohol, you must be willing to cut employees off. Having a limited drink selection is also smart. Employees who get drunk may make bad decisions, and the company may find itself liable if no one in management stopped the employee from drinking.
  • Have a car service ready. One of those bad decisions that an employee might make is to drive drunk. The potential liability for the company here can be incredibly high. The risk is simply not worth it.
  • Make sure that there is an enforced code of conduct. Sexual harassment laws do not stop because there is a party and employee holiday parties are ripe ground for unwanted advances that can lead to complaints. Make sure that your employees understand what is and is not permitted.
  • Skip the mistletoe decorations. Sierra Mist is running a radio ad where a male employee solicits kisses using a can of their new soda. It makes me cringe every time I hear it because that employee’s conduct is going to cost the company money. Keep the decorations neutral and you can avoid complaints which cost time, and lawsuits, which cost money.
  • Management must be willing to be “party poopers.” Nobody wants to ruin a good time, and it can be hard to enforce the rules when there’s music playing, dancing, and a buffet. However, the company’s management is still management, and if they aren’t taking an active role in solving problems, then they are part of the cause. It is important that managers understand what they need to do, and how to proactively address potential issues.

It’s a party and I’m not suggesting that the top-level officers patrol the dance floor to make sure that everyone is standing at least eight inches from each other and that no one has had more than two drinks. But what I am suggesting is that parties take a little more planning now than they have in the past. It’s worth taking that little bit of extra time to protect your company later.

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