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PLANNING AN OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY?

Office Party

Hosting a holiday party has been a tradition among many companies as a way to reward employees, boost morale, and encourage team spirit.  This year, fewer employers are planning to host a party.  Based on a recent study, only two-thirds of companies intend to host a holiday party, the lowest percentage since 2009.  Economic factors do not seem to be a reason as companies report tax savings and a thriving economy.

Among companies sponsoring a party, nearly 60 percent have real concerns about sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, especially in light of the #MeToo movement.  More than half of these companies have addressed the #MeToo issue this year and if not, one-third indicated that they will do so prior to the party.

If you are planning a holiday party, there are some proactive steps that can be taken to lessen your company’s liability:

  • Establish written anti-harassment policies and publish in employee handbooks; reference the policies prior to the holiday party
  • Send a memo to remind employees to act responsibly and professionally (address company’s stance on pictures being posted to social media as well as the dress/attire for the party)
  • Ensure employees understand attendance is voluntary (especially when held outside of normal work hours)
  • The focus for the holiday decorations, music, and gifts should be seasonal in nature and not religious
  • Emphasize to management that they should lead by example
  • Consider having a holiday party in which no alcohol is served
  • Hold the party offsite; it limits the company’s liability
  • Set-up a cash bar—guests will drink less if they are required to pay
  • If alcohol is served, set a tone of moderation. Consider providing a limited number of drink tickets per guest, restrict the types of alcohol served, and/or only serve alcohol for a limited time
  • Consider featuring activities/games at the party, it encourages team-building and diverts attention away from cell-phones (also limits focus on drinking)
  • When alcohol is present, offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food
  • Stop serving alcohol toward the end of the evening and switch to coffee, tea, and soft drinks
  • Arrange for alternative transportation; encourage employees and guests to use it if they consume any alcohol

While these tips are not a guarantee against holiday party problems, they can be a good foundation for an effective defense against liability if problems should come to pass.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 2:39 PM and is filed under Human Resource Policies & Practices. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.