November is here, thus the holidays are right around the corner! It is that time again when employers must grapple with the dilemma as to whether to hold a holiday party for their employees. Holiday parties are a legal minefield for employers! It goes without saying that there is always a risk involved in holding company-sponsored events, especially if alcohol is served. Serving alcohol definitely compounds the problems typically encountered by employers during Company parties, particularly holiday parties. Such problems involve everything from excessive drinking to inappropriate jokes to sexual advances to physical injuries and fatalities resulting from fighting and/or driving while intoxicated. As a result, we recommend the following 7 quick tips to minimize legal liability as you prepare for your holiday parties:
1. Do not serve alcohol; instead have a catered lunch or early dinner with non-alcoholic beverages at the office.
2. If serving alcohol, consider serving only wine (and perhaps beers) as well as non-alcoholic alternatives with the meal. We highly recommend inviting spouses and significant others.
3. Hire professional bartenders and make sure you instruct them to report anyone who they think has had too much to drink. Ensure that bartenders are complying with the law. Your supervisors or managers should NEVER be used as bartenders during Company parties!!!
4. Provide accommodations (i.e. arrange for Company paid car service or even a hotel room) for any employee who feels that he/she is too intoxicated to drive home.
5. Managers should be instructed to monitor their subordinates to ensure they do not drink too much.
6. Do not hang or allow employees, particularly managers, to hang mistletoes at the party!
7. If the big guy, Santa, makes an appearance at the party, do not encourage employees to sit on his lap in jest or for pictures, particularly if a manager or corporate officer/director is Santa. Sorry Santa!