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Holiday Parties Are Here – Are You Ready?

It’s that time of year again – your company is gearing up for its annual holiday party. While it’s a time to celebrate the successes of the year and boost employee morale, it’s crucial to ensure the festivities stay on the right track. If the party turns into a scene of employees swinging from the rafters (or otherwise engaging in inappropriate/foolish activities), it can lead to significant problems for the company, including legal liabilities.

To avoid turning your holiday party into a liability nightmare, it’s essential to approach the event with a plan to cover issues that may arise. Remind employees to uphold professionalism and adhere to company policies, especially those related to harassment, discrimination, and workplace relationships. Remind supervisors to have fun, but also monitor the event to stop things before they get out of hand.

Consider the guest list carefully; evaluate whether inviting employees with guests is wise or foolish. When it comes to the theme, keep it inclusive, steering clear of religious specifics and focusing on celebrating the collective effort of the past year.

To control exposure, avoid activities that encourage risky behavior, such as hanging mistletoe or incorporating games that might lead to inappropriate conduct. Ensure key managers are actively present throughout the event, circulating to maintain a reasonable atmosphere.

When it comes to alcohol, approach the decision with care. Choose a venue away from easily accessible bars. If serving alcohol, consider a location with professional bartenders familiar with handling alcohol-related issues, and implement strategies to limit alcohol consumption. Some hosts offer one or two tickets for free drinks but after that, it is a cash bar. Also, consider serving substantial food, providing unique and non-alcoholic beverages, and having a free taxi/uber service readily available.

Remember, making the party voluntary can help minimize workers’ compensation liability, and can even help if harassment claims are made. Lastly, check your insurance policies to understand your liability coverage, and follow up with key managers post-party to address any issues they observed.

We wish everyone a happy holiday season and good health in the New Year.  Let’s hope it is a good and prosperous one for us all!