Don’t Let Your Holiday Parties Turn Into A Major Buzz Kill And Party Foul!

Nov. 3, 2014

It’s that time of year when companies want to reward employees with a fun festive holiday party to thank the employees for all their hard work and increase morale. There will be lots of food, drink, conversation, punch and mistletoe. Get the drift? It’s always best to take precautions “pre-party” in order to reduce a company’s liability on what transpires during the festivities.

For example, employers need to worry about those “working” the party and being compensated, those drinking too much and saying or doing the wrong thing, those who get injured, etc. Many of the employees’ actions during the party can lead to employer liability and lawsuits – if it be workers’ compensation injuries, sexual harassment investigations, department of labor audit or even personal liability. There’s always that one supervisor who drinks a little too much glogg and takes the conversation too far with their subordinate or the individual who falls off the ladder while hanging the mistletoe. Here are some quick tips on how to not look like the Grinch this holiday season, but also keep you away from having to be like Daddy Warbucks and his wallet when the lawsuits start rolling in after all the fun has been had.

Make it voluntary

First, all such holiday events should be voluntary and not a “faux voluntary” where management says it’s voluntary but gives a wink wink that the employees will be hit with some repercussions if they do not attend, or the sales manager who explains how important it is the sales reps attend because there will be client networking. When they are voluntary, the employees cannot argue they should be paid for their time. Keep in mind though if you have certain employees who are in charge of registration, organizing events at the function, etc., those employees should be compensated as hours worked when they are non-exempt employees. When the parties are voluntary, these same employees (whether exempt or not) who get injured while working the party are going to file claims with your workers’ compensation carrier. If you need a decorating committee or party photographer, try making a voluntary committee and save yourself some red tape.  

Offsite avoids liability

Second, alcohol and employees are usually not the best holiday concoction and lead to the most liability aftermath. Holding your festivities off-site is your safest bet. Here, the off-site locations use trained bartenders who can ward off over consumption, as well as, these sites carry their own liability insurance to tackle these situations. Alcohol can also be limited with either a free drink ticket system or a strictly monitored happy hour before the free drinks turn into a cash bar. Along the same lines, where there is alcohol there must be adequate food. Make sure you have a healthy offering of good food to soak up the hot toddies and spiked egg nog. Having the establishment cut off drinking prior to the end of the event is a good way to reduce drunk driving, as well as, offering transportation or expense reimbursement to get home safely.

Lastly, now that you and your elves have done all the hard work and took all the proper precautions, you can sit back, relax and have a jolly good ole time at the festivities knowing no heat miser is going to ruin your party.