The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Holiday Parties

table with champagne glasses

Office holiday parties are festive events that can provide an opportunity for employees to socialize in a casual environment. In this week’s post we’ll discusses what you can do to help your company avoid legal problems while still hosting a holiday party that everyone will enjoy!

1. Go Over Company Behavior Policies

Even though it’s a party, it’s still a workplace-sponsored event. Thus, it is sometimes a good idea to send out an email the week of the party reminding employees of expected behavior. Reinforce positive behavior by going over specifics of your company’s policies. Employees should also be encouraged to look out for other employees at the event who may be intoxicated or behaving inappropriately.

2. Limit the Amount of Alcohol That is Served

While employers can’t control how much a guest may drink before coming to the event, they can limit how much alcohol is officially served. This can be done in a number of ways including offering a limited number of drink tickets to each guest and/or only keeping the bar open the first hour or two of the party.

3. Don’t Let Employees Who Have Been Drinking Drive

This could mean providing transportation for employees after a company-sponsored party or through the use of designated drivers who sign up ahead of time to drive home those who have been drinking.

4. Don’t Have the Party On-Site

It’s a good idea to have the event at a local restaurant or reception hall. Make sure to check ahead of time, but this usually means the venue’s liability insurance will cover the party (but not always). No matter where the party is held, hire a professional bartender to serve drinks and try to prevent employees and supervisors from serving alcohol.

5. Plan a Detailed Party

Planning specific activities such as lunch or dinner only, or providing entertainment leaves guests without much free time on their hands. And the benefit is that a well-organized event is less likely to present problems.

6. Don’t Make the Party Mandatory

While work related parties are usually not geared to any specific religious belief, forcing an employee to attend can create legal problems. Some individuals may not want to celebrate, even in a general way for various reasons. Always keep the holiday celebration optional.

7. Allow Employees to Bring a “Guest”

Guest is a much broader term than spouse and basically includes anyone the employee would want to invite. While it may be more expensive to allow employees to include a guest, this provides safeguards at the event because most people are not as prone to behave inappropriately when a significant other is with them.

Following these few do’s and don’ts can make a big difference regarding the outcome of your holiday celebration. After consulting with an attorney you can make informed decisions concerning what is the best approach for your company or organization.

If you have more questions, please schedule a consultation with one of our Employment Law Attorneys today!

Image: Thinkstock/VladKol
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.

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