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Employers Can Minimize Their Liability at the Company Holiday Party

#512attorney #AustinLegal Nov. 17, 2022

The Holidays are a Time to Party!

After almost three years of adhering to varying degrees of social distancing due to health concerns stemming from the pandemic, many of us in the workforce look forward to celebrating the holidays together. Company holiday parties allow everyone in the organization to enjoy each other's company in a festive and relaxed setting. The positive effects of throwing an annual holiday party for your employees include boosting employee morale, strengthening your workplace culture, and providing an enjoyable way to thank your employees for all their hard work throughout the year. With careful planning, employers can minimize their risk at holiday celebrations and maximize their opportunity to share a joyful evening that their staff will long remember.

Holiday Parties Can Lead to Employer Liability

While holiday gatherings, parties, and events are a great way to celebrate this festive time of year, alcohol-related incidents can also lead to employer liability. Not only can imbibing too much holiday cheer lead to vehicle crashes and injuries, but excessive drinking can also lead to allegations of sexual harassment. The United States Department of Labor states that holding a holiday party with improper use of alcohol can make employers vulnerable to liability under the law. Consider the following ideas to protect yourself, your company, and your employees when you are planning this year's holiday celebration:

·      Remind Your Employees Not to Over Imbibe

If you are providing alcohol at your holiday party, consider sending out reminders before the event about drinking responsibly. There are effective ways to reduce alcohol consumption at your party: 

  1. Offer a cash bar. When guests must buy their own drinks, they tend to consume less. 

  2. Provide two drink tickets for each guest. While there is always the possibility of a guest collecting drink tickets from those not ordering alcohol, providing drink tickets sends a clear message that the company believes it is wise for everyone at the party to limit the alcohol they consume. 

  • Provide Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages.

Serve generous amounts of food throughout the evening and offer a variety of choices that will allow everyone to eat, drink responsibly, and be merry. Consider serving foods high in starches, like bread and potatoes, proteins, such as meat and fish, and fats, like avocado and nuts. These kinds of foods stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

  • Invite Spouses to Join the Celebration

Many sexual harassment claims that arise during company-sponsored events would likely be avoided if employee spouses were present. There is a heightened potential for incidents of sexual harassment during holiday parties. Including spouses at company events can often keep employees from drinking too much alcohol or exhibiting bad behavior.  

  • Last Call 

If your party is scheduled from 6 pm to 10 pm, consider closing the bar at 9 pm. Closing the bar will give your guests some time to recover from any effects of the alcohol, and it will allow you to identify the guests who may need help getting home safely. After the bar has closed, continue to serve food, bottled water, coffee and tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages.

  • Never Drink and Drive

If you are hosting your annual celebration at a hotel, consider asking them to offer discounted rooms to your staff on the night of the event. If your employees and their guests know they can reserve a room, it will allow your partygoers to plan accordingly and the option of heading home the following morning.

  • Company Policies Are Also in Effect at the Holiday Party

The company should have a written sexual harassment policy in place and ensure that their employees understand that the policy applies in all work-related settings. Remind your employees that a holiday party is an extension of the workplace, and employees will be held responsible for inappropriate conduct at the event. Like any workplace incident, any misconduct at the party may be subject to investigation by the Human Resources Department. 

  • Investigate All Complaints.

Unwelcome sexual advances sometimes occur at company-sponsored holiday parties when employees have had too much to drink. Even though the incident happened off-site, employers must investigate these allegations. Complaints about misconduct at a party should be investigated just like any other complaint because the conduct may affect an employee's working relationship with their colleagues.

  • Plan a Joyful Celebration

Company holiday parties are held so everyone can relax and enjoy each other's company. With careful planning and some gentle, albeit strategic reminders, to staff about drinking in moderation, employers can minimize their risk at holiday celebrations and maximize their opportunity to share a joyful evening that everyone will remember.

The Lynch Law Firm Will Navigate Your Legal Matter from Inception to Resolution 

When labor and employment matters arise, the Lynch Law Firm's team of attorneys is equipped with the resources, experience, and knowledge to help you resolve your legal issue. In addition to working with clients on workplace investigations, our attorneys can also assist you in developing employee handbooks, performance evaluation materials, and employment contracts and drafting legal agreements to address non-disclosure, non-competition, severance, and separation issues. 

Schedule a Consultation with the Lynch Law Firm Now

If you are an employer seeking to initiate a workplace investigation or resolve a labor and employment issue, protect yourself, your employees, and your business by contacting the Lynch Law Firm now. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of your legal dispute from inception to resolution. Contact the Lynch Law Firm now: Email us now or call 512 298 2346