‘Tis the Season to Mitigate Liability: An Employer’s Checklist for Holiday Parties

‘Tis the Season to Mitigate Liability: An Employer’s Checklist for Holiday Parties

December 8, 2022

Source: Saiber Employment Law Alert

The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes every HR professional’s biggest cause of indigestion: workplace parties. While organizations throughout the country are preparing to hold their annual holiday celebrations, a tradition which may have required a brief hiatus during the previous two COVID-impacted years, employers may overlook some critical steps to ensure a safe, fun and hopefully liability-free celebration for their employees.

Therefore, while planning such events, employers may want to consider the following precautionary measures:

  • Limit and/or monitor the amount of alcohol served and consumed. Consider holding the event at a location that has a liquor license and/or hiring a professional bartender so alcohol is distributed by a professional who is trained to handle individuals when they consume more than a reasonable amount of alcohol. It is not advisable to allow employees to serve themselves because then there is no one monitoring their consumption.

  • Remind employees of the Company’s expectations in terms of proper behavior and provide specific examples. Review or issue policies relating to expectations at employer-sponsored functions. Such policies should provide that when alcohol is served, employees are expected to enjoy it responsibly and remain sober at all times.

  • Remind members of management to set a good example.

  • Review your insurance policy to confirm you have adequate coverage.

  • Remind employees that policies against discrimination and harassment continue to apply equally at all work-related events.

  • If applicable, remind employees to give work-appropriate gifts for any holiday exchanges.

  • Ensure holiday customs are work appropriate and avoid any, for example, that may give rise to sexually-charged scenarios, like hanging mistletoe.

  • Confirm that any vendors are appropriately licensed and insured to avoid injuries, for example, from contaminated foods.

  • Arrange for transportation to and from the event.

  • Consider holding the event after working hours and remind employees and contractors that attendance is voluntary.

  • Avoid sponsoring or attending after-parties.

An office holiday party can be one of the highlights of the year when steps are taken to minimize the risks associated with an employer hosting a company party.  Have fun, but proceed with caution!  Should you have any questions about implementing policies for your upcoming party, please contact DanaLynn Colao of Saiber LLC’s Employment & Labor Law Practice.