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December 15, 2023

The holidays should be a time for you and your employees to unwind and relax after months of hard work. It’s a time to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments while looking forward to what the new year has in store.

Without proper planning, however, your office holiday party could bring out the worst in your employees, leading to decreased morale, harassment lawsuits, and even injuries.

Holiday Office Party Risks and How to Avoid Them

Whenever you get your workforce together in a relaxed environment and tell them to have fun, you run the risk of things getting out of hand. Add factors like alcohol and late nights to the mix, and the chances of something going wrong skyrocket.

Consider the following strategies to make your holiday party more festive, fun, and safe for all this year, as suggested by an experienced business defense lawyer.

Communicate Your Expectations Clearly

Don’t expect your employees to naturally understand the tone you’re trying to set. For some workers, a holiday party may be a formal affair at which a certain level of decorum is expected. For others, an after-hours party maybe when they feel free to toss aside their inhibitions and indulge themselves.

A simple first step in planning your holiday party is to email your employees the details of the party and your expectations for their behavior. Include practical information, such as where the party will be held when it will begin and end, and what sort of attire is expected.

Just as importantly, tell your workers what sort of conduct they should display at the event. Remind them that although this is meant to be a relaxed affair, they should still follow company policies and that you’ll show no tolerance for behavior that could come across as discriminatory or harassing.

Make it clear to your employees and any guests they might bring that these expectations will be strictly enforced.

If someone violates your guidelines, you and your management team should address the situation appropriately. Attendees who repeatedly refuse to follow the rules or endanger the safety or well-being of others should be asked to leave.

Consider How You’ll Handle Alcohol

Alcohol is a common feature of many holiday parties. While it can help your staff get in the mood to party, excessive consumption can increase the likelihood of harassment and sexual misconduct. It can also pose a danger for employees and their guests who drink and then drive home.

If you choose to make alcohol a part of your party plans, do so responsibly. Consider prohibiting employees from bringing outside alcohol to the event. If you control the source of alcoholic beverages, you’ll be better able to limit that supply and cut it off for employees who appear to be too intoxicated.

It’s strongly recommended that you don’t allow employees to have free, unrestricted access to alcohol. You might ordinarily have faith in your employees’ discretion and professionalism, but unlimited alcohol presents too great a risk to your workforce and your business to be given out freely.

Hiring an outside professional to manage the dispensation of alcohol can relieve you of the responsibility of monitoring your employees’ consumption. This can prevent those who have had too much from continuing to drink and further endangering their safety and that of the people around them.

There are ways to manage alcohol consumption even if you choose to forgo hiring a professional service.

For example, you could give each employee a limited number of drink tickets to redeem for alcoholic beverages. Once an employee has used all their drink tickets, they won’t be able to obtain any more alcohol. Either you or another manager can oversee the collection of tickets and the distribution of drinks.

Accommodate Employees Who Need a Ride Home

If you plan to serve alcohol on the premises, you should also plan to make transportation available for employees who consume it.

Don’t rely on your ability to spot an inebriated driver before they leave your party. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair a person’s judgment and motor skills, and those who consume alcohol quickly may take some time before they start showing symptoms.

Make rideshare or traditional taxi services available for guests who feel that they aren’t able to drive themselves safely.

You and your management team should also keep an eye out for individuals showing signs of intoxication and prevent them from leaving in their personal vehicles. If you’re controlling the supply of alcohol, this should not present an insurmountable problem.

Stick to a Schedule and Consider Ending the Party Early

The later into the night your party goes, the more chances there will be for something to go wrong. Similarly, unstructured time, where employees are free to do as they please, can invite some employees to indulge in their own idea of fun. Combat this by structuring the event with designated times for mingling and other activities.

You should also consider starting and ending the event relatively early. Doing so will provide fewer opportunities for things to get out of hand and increase the likelihood that people will have a safe and enjoyable time together.

Consult an Experienced Business Defense Lawyer

Your specific situation and industry may call for additional preparations. A knowledgeable business defense lawyer can identify them and help you make them. Your attorney can also review your holiday plans and offer additional suggestions for keeping your employees and your business safe.

If any incidents or concerns come up at your party, make it a point to bring them to the attention of your business defense lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier your attorney knows about potential liabilities, the quicker they can take action to address them and minimize damage to your company’s operations or reputation.

Take Steps to Ensure That Your Holiday Party is Safe and Enjoyable

Ensure a worry-free holiday celebration for your business by crafting a liability-proof plan for your upcoming party. While the task may not sound glamorous, it’s crucial in preventing accidents, fending off harassment claims, and avoiding personal injury lawsuits. As business owners and managers, safeguarding your company’s reputation is paramount.

Take action now to protect your business from potential liabilities. Contact Pearlman, Brown & Wax, LLP for expert guidance in creating a comprehensive plan for your holiday event. Don’t let legal concerns dampen the festive spirit – reach out to us today and ensure your holiday party is memorable and legally secure. Your proactive approach now can save you from headaches later. Contact Pearlman, Brown & Wax, LLP, and let us navigate the legal intricacies so you can focus on celebrating without worry.


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