Company Holiday Parties

Maggie Parks – IronRoad

The holidays are a festive time of the year, so your office administrative staff is likely planning your company’s 2019 holiday party. While holiday parties are a great way to build morale and show appreciation for your employees, they can also present risks for employees. Prior to the holiday party, employers should consider the following best practices to avoid any legal problems. 

Alcohol

The best way to avoid alcohol-related problems at a holiday party is to follow some or all of the following suggestions: 

  1. Before the party, communicate to employees that excessive drinking will not be tolerated, and that inappropriate behavior will result in disciplinary action. 
  2. If you do serve alcohol, do not have an “open bar” where employees can drink as much as they want. Instead have a cash bar or use a ticket system to limit the numbers of drinks. Also consider serving only wine and beer rather than hard liquor and close the bar at least an hour before you plan to end the party. Consider switching to coffee and soft drinks from there on. 
  3. Be sure that you are serving food along with the alcohol, especially foods high in protein and starch, which slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Avoid serving lots of foods that are salty, greasy, or sweet. 
  4. If you are holding your party at a hotel, ask the management to discount a block of rooms for employees. 
  5. Consider covering the costs of a safe ride home, such as Uber or Lyft. 

Sexual Harassment

Employers can take the following steps to reduce the risk of harassment at the office holiday party: 

  1. Have in place comprehensive, written anti-harassment policies, clearly stated in employee handbooks – and publicize that policy prior to the holiday party. Post policies outside of the event doors as a reminder. 
  2. Provide information about dress codes in your holiday invitation and what not to wear; nothing too short, too tight, too low or too revealing. 
  3. Invite spouses and significant others so that there will be someone there to help keep an eye on your employees and, if necessary, get them home safely. 
  4. Never, never hang mistletoe. 

Wage and Hour Issues 

To limit the risk of potential wage and hour claims, employers should make sure that:

  1. All employees are reminded that the party is optional, and do not suggest that attendance will benefit a person’s standing within the company. 
  2. When possible have the party outside of normal business hours, whatever those may be for your company. 
  3. Striking up conversation about work then finding yourself in a strategic planning session is easy to do at a social event with co-workers however make sure employees are not asked to engage business activities during the party. staff

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