It’s that time of year again. Employers all over the country are throwing parties and other events to celebrate the holidays. While such events do have many positive effects, including boosting morale and rewarding employees for their hard work, holiday parties also are breeding grounds for a litany of potential legal problems. Employers wishing to avoid the unintended consequences of holiday parties should consider the following:
Ten Steps to Minimize the Post-Party Legal Hangover
- Remind employees that normal work rules and standards of conduct apply to the holiday event, even if it is held off-site. If they wouldn’t act in a certain way in the office, or wear a certain type of outfit to work, the holiday party is not the time to start.
- Lead by example – managers and lead people set the tone. If they consume alcohol in moderation and behave appropriately, others will too.
- Be on the look out for inappropriate behavior and step in when necessary to end it.
- If you are serving alcohol, provide ample food and entertainment to make sure that drinking does not become the focus of the event.
- Don’t serve punches or other drinks in which the drinker cannot gauge the alcohol level; also, consider limiting the drinks served to beer, wine and soft drinks.
- Do not provide mistletoe!
- Limit the length of the event, and stop serving alcohol prior to the end of the event.
- Provide alternate transportation in case anyone needs it at the end of the evening.
- Don’t force your employees to attend – designate the event as strictly social and make attendance voluntary.
- Avoid religious discrimination – make your holiday celebration an inclusive, non-denominational event.
Five Top Alternatives to the Traditional Holiday Party
Some employers are moving away from the traditional office holiday party and are choosing to celebrate with their employees in different ways, such as the following:
- A community service day.
- A spa/golf outing.
- Taking a group cooking lesson.
- Buffet or pot luck lunches during the work day.
- Providing time off with pay to employees.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate the holidays with your employees, encourage them to remember that what happens at the holiday party does not, unfortunately, stay at the holiday party.