Holiday Parties: Are you preparing for the worst?

Company holiday party. People dancing and having a good time.

A company holiday party boosts morale and shows you appreciate your employees, but the holiday party can also be a human resource nightmare. Here are some tips on how to host a great holiday party and limit your company’s liability exposure. 

Limit Alcohol Consumption

I get it. No one wants to be a party-pooper but protecting your company and your career should be a priority over getting hammered. Employers should hire professional bartenders who are trained to limit harm and liability. Employees should be mindful to limit their consumption. Getting drunk and making a fool of yourself could be something that ends or damages your career. It’s a great way to get noticed but not in a good way. 

Arrange Transportation Options 

Providing transportation is a great way to dramatically reduce your liability by reducing the chances that your employees will drink and drive. Create a company rideshare account through a company like Uber or Lyft and allow employees to use that account to get home. Another options is to allow employees to submit their cab receipts for reimbursement. Even if your company party does not occur during working hours or at your workplace, liability is still there.

After leaving a company party a Marriott employee struck another vehicle and killed the driver. The employee was sentenced to 6 years in prison. The deceased’s family sued Marriott. The courts ruled that an employer may be found liable for employee offenses as long as the proximate cause of the injury (here, alcohol consumption) occurred within the scope of employment. Since the company party was an annual event, the court considered it within the scope of employment. It was irrelevant that the employee’s negligence was the cause of the death—the worker’s intoxication. Given this case, employers should be very cautious. As such, employees should plan ahead and designate a driver or have someone pick them up to drive them home. 

The Rules Still Apply

Forget the mistletoe – dare I say more? According to Albert Brannen, an attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP, “36% of employers report employee misconduct at holiday parties.” He goes on to describe the possible types of misconduct like excessive drinking, sexual advances, off-color jokes, vulgar language, arguments and fistfights. It is imperative to remind employees that company rules still apply to company parties. You should be specific about appropriate dress and conduct. 

Remember, keep it festive! The holiday party is an opportunity to show your appreciation and reflect on the success and contributions of your employees. This is not the time for anyone to talk shop and that includes negative subjects such as layoffs, pay freezes or slow sales. 

Scholley Bubenik is president of Austin based company, Premier HR Solutions. For more information on the company’s human resource consulting services, visit www.premierhrsolutions.net or contact Scholley at [email protected].