Tis the season of the office holiday party. Sounds like, fun right? But there are risks. One act of bad behavior can turn into a legal mess. As the office holiday party season kicks off, here are some tips on how both employers and employees can avoid liability while still enjoying some holiday cheer.
Tip 1: Don’t serve alcohol
Having an alcohol-free event is the best way to minimize risk for employers. Court records are filled with examples of people sexually harassing co-workers or making inappropriate comments at parties where alcohol is involved.
And even if the party goes off without an issue, perhaps the biggest concern is that an employee will drive home under the influence and hurt or even kill someone. As the host, your company may be found liable because alcohol was served at the party.
Tip 2: Managers should lead by example
Emphasize to management that they must lead by example. When it comes to behavior at an office party – people will follow examples – good or bad.
Tip 3: Hold the party at an offsite location
If problems do arise, it is better that they occur away from the business premises. Depending on the state, liability will generally be on the restaurant or event venue rather than the company. However, it is not unusual for an employer to be named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit if an intoxicated employee leaves any company-sponsored event and injures himself or herself or another person as a result. See tip number 1.
Tip 4: Invite spouses, significant others or families
Aside from excessive drinking, the next most common issue is sexual harassment. Employees are still bound by workplace policies, even at after-hours parties. A family-friendly environment will limit this kind of risk.
Tip 5: Arrange alternative transportation
After reading Tip 1 above, if you still decide to serve alcohol, anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all employees and guests. Make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees and guests to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol.
Bonus Tip: Did we mention, don’t serve alcohol?