Here’s How to Stop Your Office Party from Turning Into a Legal Nightmare…

“36% of employers report employee misconduct at holiday parties.” (Albert Brannen of Fisher & Phillips)

Sexual harassment, fights between co-workers, employees driving home drunk – the list of potential liabilities is enough to make an employer consider cancelling the annual holiday party altogether.

But if doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you follow these nine dos and don’ts from attorneys writing on JDS Supra as you plan this year’s blow-out office holiday party:

1. Do consider a “party disclosure”:

“The [party disclosure / waiver] document should ensure that employees are aware that participation in the event is strictly voluntary, that employees will be required to act responsibly in arranging for transportation to and from the party and in consuming alcohol, and that they will have to see the same co-workers the next work day.” (Karina Sterman of Ervin Cohen & Jessup)

2. Don’t require employees to attend:

“Make attendance optional, so those who do not celebrate the holidays can opt out. By making the event optional, you also decrease the possibility of lawsuits based on wage and hour violations.” (Amanda Couture and Brian McDermott of Ogletree Deakins)

3. Do make it a family event:

“Invite spouses and significant others so that there will be someone there to help keep an eye on your employees and, if necessary, get them home safely.” (Michael Mitchell of Fisher & Phillips)

4. Don’t have an open bar:

“Companies should limit the amount of alcohol any guest is permitted to consume.  Some companies do this by providing ‘drink tickets,’ or by only having an open bar for an hour or so into the party, such that all guests have to begin purchasing their own libations after a certain point.” (Stacie Caraway and Christopher Parker of Miller & Martin)

5. Do hire professional bartenders:

“If your company does not have a liquor license and is not hosting your event in a private home or other non-commercial venue, you will be required to use a caterer and/or venue with such a license in order to be able to lawfully serve alcohol.  Using the caterer or venue’s professional bartenders … is also a good idea, as these individuals are trained to recognize and handle those who have ‘had too much.’” (Caraway and Parker)

6. Don’t let drinking become the main event:

“[P]rovide food and entertainment to prevent drinking from being the focus of the party, [and] serve foods that slow the assimilation of alcohol (i.e., those high in protein or starch) and not greasy or salty foods that encourage more consumption of liquids.” (Albert Brannen of Fisher & Phillips)

7. Do ask some employees to stay on duty and monitor the party:

“[E]mployers might also ask certain managers and volunteers to not drink and to keep watch over the other employees to make sure that everyone is acting appropriately and drinking responsibly or to arrange transportation.” (James Ryan of Cullen and Dykman)

8. Do stop serving before the party ends:

“Shut down the bar one hour before the end of the party, and have food and non-alcoholic beverages available during that last hour.” (Couture and McDermott)

9. Don’t let intoxicated employees get behind the wheel:

“… arrange for designated drivers, reduced cab fares or hotel room rates or even offer to pay or reimburse alcohol-impaired employees for cab fare or hotel expenses.” (Brannen)

The updates:

Find more tips for making your Holiday Party a success at JD Supra Law News>>