As the holiday season begins, many offices will be holding their annual holiday office parties. While these events can be a fun and effective way to celebrate and thank employees for a year's worth of hard work, employers should take notice of potential liabilities that may arise from holiday revelry.
When alcohol is served, many people lose their inhibitions and may engage in conduct that can be categorized as either overly friendly or aggressive. Often, sexual harassment can be linked to alcohol-fueled holiday parties. This may be avoided by consciously limiting alcohol intake and “cutting off” certain people when necessary.
Likewise, alcohol-related injuries to third parties may present possible liability for employers if intoxicated employees are “overly served.” While the employer may still be a named defendant in a potential lawsuit for injuries to a third party, generally when the event is held at a location other than the office, the employer may be able to limit their liability if the event is held at a restaurant or bar.
This does not mean that you cannot serve alcohol at your company holiday party. There are ways companies can throw parties while still protecting themselves from legal consequences. Please take these suggestions into account:
- Have the event at a bar or restaurant, and have the employees pay for drinks themselves, and/or supply tickets for either one or two drinks.
- Create a policy about the consequences of inappropriate actions to be handed out to employees before the event.
- Stop serving alcohol at least one or two hours before the event is scheduled to end.
- Make attendance to the event voluntary and not mandatory.
- Advise the bartender to not “over serve” anyone.
- Offer free cab rides home.
If these precautions are heeded, everyone will have a joyous holiday season. And remember, NEVER drink and drive. Happy Holidays!