Some Do’s and Don’ts of the Company Holiday Party

Some Do’s and Don’ts of the Company Holiday Party

Company holiday parties are about to hit high gear which warrants words of caution for employers and revelers alike. From an insurance perspective, be sure to check your liability coverage well before the party begins and take all reasonable precautions to avoid an incident or accident.

Your first call is whether or not to allow alcohol. Why? Whether they involve driving, injuries or harassment, most party problems are alcohol-related incidents.

If alcohol is part of your planned holiday celebration, there are common sense ideas to minimize incidents and limit your organization’s liability. Here are some hints culled from attorneys who have far too many examples of post-party complaints from which to draw.

1. Hold your company celebration at a restaurant or hotel that carries liquor liability. Most hospitality businesses have trained their staff to not over-serve any patrons at a party. This is another way of suggesting that having a holiday party at the office is not a great idea if alcohol is being served.
2. No matter where you are, serve plenty of food and consider using two complimentary drink tickets to help limit consumption. Avoid having a self-serve bar or spiked punch bowl. Consumption is hard to monitor without a bartender. In addition, be certain that no one at the party who is under-age has access to alcohol. The company or caterer could be held liable for serving to minors.
3. Hold your party during the week and, perhaps, during the lunch hour with an early release if alcohol is served. Sending the message that a mid-day or after hours party has a clear beginning and end will also limit consumption.
4. Don’t make the celebration mandatory as it could constitute a reasonable claim that the party was actually “work” for which hourly employees would be compensated. Should an accident or injury at a “working party” occur, it also could be compensable under workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, having customers attend or using the party for company recognition also can make the celebration “official” and, therefore, work-related.
5. Alcohol and sexual harassment often go hand in hand. Be clear with all employees about your expectations for behavior as well as company policy regarding consequences. Review those expectations with managers and supervisors so there is no room for interpretation. This group of leaders is no exception. When unwanted behavior from a superior occurs, grounds for charges of coercive harassment are all the more serious. Another way to limit amorous antics is to invite spouses/partners/dates.

Then there is the CLM (career limiting move), the one-off incident fueled by one drink too many that can compromise a person’s standing in the company or organization. You don’t want to be “that guy”, the topic of whispered conversation following the party, particularly if you’re just getting your career under way.

Be the person to help organize the event, passing food trays or volunteering as a designated driver. It will demonstrate your leadership far more than leading sloppy singing with the karaoke machine from atop a table.

Be the adult in the room, keep an eye out for unusual behavior and help coach your co-workers through what should be a fun time of the year.

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