80% Of Employers Will Host A Holiday Celebration in 2016
Tis the season to be merry, and 80 percent of employers are planning to hold a holiday celebration this year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. But the Houston office of national labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips warns that although this is the time of year when peace and good will reign, employers should beware of liabilities stemming from excessive alcohol consumption or other potential hazards often associated with holiday events.
“While many of us enjoy a little holiday cheer, serving alcohol at a company event can be risky, unless accompanied by some common-sense safeguards” said Kevin Troutman, a Fisher Phillips partner in Houston. “The bottom line is that when you combine alcohol with today’s litigious work environment, you may be asking for trouble.
“Consumption of alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, which may lead to bad decisions. Employees’ actions may subject employers to claims of sexual harassment if, for example, a manager gets overly friendly with a co-worker.”
In addition to harassment issues, Fisher Phillips warns that if an employee leaves an office holiday party intoxicated and is involved in an accident, the company may be liable. Also, costly workers compensation claims can pop up if an employee is injured.
Make A List, Check It Twice
“Preparation and planning are key in ensuring employers avoid coal in their stockings and lawsuits on their desks,” said Troutman. “If this year’s holiday party can’t proceed without the spiced eggnog, employers can still ensure that safeguards are in place.”
- Always serve food if alcohol is available. Be sure and also have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand too.
- Avoid an “open bar” where employees can drink as much as they want. Consider using a drink-ticket system or a cash bar. Holiday parties are meant to celebrate and improve office morale – not to encourage or enable employees to get intoxicated.
- Do not serve alcoholic punch or other beverages that make it difficult to gauge how much alcohol one person consumes.
- Hire professional bartenders and instruct them to discreetly let you know if they feel someone has had too much to drink.
- Schedule parties on a weeknight when employees may be less likely to overindulge.
- Arrange for designated drivers, reduced cab fares or a no-cost rideshare service if employees are obviously impaired by alcohol.
In addition to these tips, Fisher Phillips advises employers to review insurance policies for alcohol-related exclusions and make sure supervisors are up-to-date on policies dealing with harassment. “Without sounding like a Scrooge, it’s important to observe some guidelines to avoid starting the New Year in court,” said Troutman.