Cheers to No Lawsuits: holiday party guide from OperationsInc human resources agency

The holidays are once again upon us, and that means most businesses are planning their firm’s holiday party or similar type of gathering. Many of the business owners in your audience are unaware of the potential issues that can arise from gatherings of this type, and others are aware of the these issues, and are looking to be better educated on best practices for hosting / managing these events so that they can limit their liability and ensure that no problems arise.

I would like to offer the advice of HR expert David Lewis to educate the business owners and leadership in your audience on what they can do to limit their liability at their office holiday party. Some talking points:

  • You are not too cool to be sued: No matter how cutting edge and “cool” your workplace culture is, all firms are still susceptible to a lawsuit. As such proceed with caution, and always keep in mind that companies can (and will be) held responsible and accountable for any incidents that occur, especially at company sponsored events.
  • The party is an extension of the workday: When incidents do occur, it is imperative that they be dealt with as if they took place in the middle of the office, at least in terms of interceding vs. letting them continue. Specifically, any incidents witnessed that meet standards for possible harassment or hostile work environment MUST be addressed at that time, and investigated thereafter, possibly after the company event. Remember that all party attendees in view of any bad behavior are also witnesses and possible victims.
  • Consider Setting a Dress Code: Avoid having employees show up as if they are dressed for a nightclub by setting a dress code for the event. Appropriate attire will help remind those in attendance that they are attending a work function.
  • Prepare your leadership team to expect poor behavior: Company holiday parties are the source every year of some of the most inappropriate levels of behavior. The mix of alcohol and, where present, music results in a drop in professional behavior standards, leading to more casual and social interaction amongst professionals. It is important to keep things as under control as possible so no lines are crossed allowing inappropriate interactions to occur. Remind your leadership team to be on the lookout for potential issues, and at the very least be on their best behavior themselves.
  • Hire a bartender: If the party is being hosted at your offices, consider hiring bartenders to avoid having employees serve themselves. This will not only keep someone with a heavy hand from “over-serving” themselves, but will also make it less awkward should an employee need to be told to take it easy on the cocktails. The hired firm will in most cases also share some liability should an issue surrounding alcohol consumption arise.
  • Employ a “Monitor”: Assign someone in HR and/or management the task of monitoring the event to ensure that all in attendance maintain a professional level of behavior. This monitor resource also should read up on the role / receive training, and be responsible for determining who will be sent home via car service vs. being allowed to drive. Ultimately, your employee’s safety should be your number one concern.


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