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Is it Safe to hold a Holiday Party for Employees?

A holiday party is a common way to thank employees for their efforts throughout the year.  However, given the current legal climate, it’s important to plan these events carefully.  As an employer, you may be held legally responsible if an intoxicated employee gets into a car accident on the way home from the event.  Inappropriate employee behavior can result in harassment charges, worker’s compensation claims, and other legal liabilities for the organization.

Most companies still find that the benefits of a party outweigh the risks, so they hold some type of holiday festivities for their workers.  You can minimize risks by observing the following standards:

  • Hold the event off company premises and outside of normal business hours
  • Notify employees that attendance is optional and avoid imposing negative actions or comments when an employee does not attend
  • Circulate a memo to all employees, before the party, emphasizing the importance of moderation in drinking if alcohol will be served and reminding them that the company’s policies regarding sexual harassment and discrimination apply to company parties
  • Take precautions if you serve alcohol. Hire bartenders, and have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand, and provide ample entertainment and some other activity for attendees besides drinking.  Consider providing vouchers to limit the number of drinks served and the number of hours during which alcohol is served.  Instruct bartenders not to serve minors and to stop serving individuals who may appear intoxicated.  Designate employees to circulate during the party to spot those who do not look sober.  Provide transportation home by means of designated drivers or company paid rides for those who request it or are deemed unable to drive safely.  If you’re holding the party at a hotel, negotiate reduce rate hotel rooms for employees.
  • Encourage employees to bring family members and significant others if appropriate. This practice increases the likelihood that the occasion will be both festive and professional.  Misbehavior is much less likely to occur in a family environment.
  • Take any employee complaint about harassment or any other improper conduct at the party seriously and investigate it just as you would complaints about regular activities during business hours. Don’t ignore any allegation simply because the behavior occurred at a party.

DFRI wishes you a safe and happy holidays.

For more information about our Employee Relations services please visit DFRIHR.com