Planning a Holiday Party to Reduce Legal Risk
Written by David Dubberly, Nexsen Pruet, PLLC
December 2, 2022
Holiday parties can be a fun way to show appreciation to employees for dedication and hard work. But they can also expose employers to liability for bad behavior resulting from alcohol consumption, including claims of sexual harassment and injuries caused by driving under the influence.
Here are some ways employers can minimize the risk of liability when planning a holiday party:
- Consider using an off-site facility and a professional bartending service that have their own liability insurance.
- Remind employees in a pre-party communication that the company’s code of conduct and personnel policies remain in effect at company events, including the holiday party.
- Make sure bartenders have been trained to request proof of age from anyone who looks too young to drink; to not over-pour drinks; and to notify HR representatives at the party if someone is consuming too much alcohol.
- Consider limiting alcoholic drinks to beer and wine, and make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.
- Make sure there is ample food and entertainment to prevent drinking from becoming the focus of the party.
- Limit the length of the party and stop serving alcohol at least one hour before it is scheduled to end.
- Hire a security service or an off-duty police officer or security guard to be present during and after the party.
- Consider having alternative transportation available for employees who overindulge and/or offering to reimburse employees who opt to use a rideshare service to get home.
- Tell employees the party is a voluntary social event and attendance is not required.
If there is a complaint about alleged harassment at the party, conduct a prompt and thorough investigation and take appropriate remedial action to preserve the company’s defenses against a legal claim.
Considering how best to ensure that all employees enjoy the party and get home safely can help employers avoid starting off the new year facing a lawsuit.