Key Tips for Enjoying a Risk-Free Company Holiday Party

It’s the end of a long, stressful year and your employees deserve a reward for all their hard work. The holiday season reminds us that a party is a great way to show employee recognition and let employees relax and enjoy some leisure time together and with management. Company parties take on many different forms–during the day in the conference room for pizza, after work at the boss’ house or on a Saturday night at a function hall ballroom. Perhaps you’ve conducted harassment training recently so feel you’ve covered all the bases, but whether you’re hosting a casual or more formal event, there are some additional topics you should be mindful of to ensure the company and the employees enjoy themselves in a safe and legal way.

Tip #1

Be sensitive to the fact that there are many religious holidays that occur at the same time, don’t focus the party around any specific religion. Also, company parties should be voluntary; employees shouldn’t feel pressured to attend or discriminated against for not attending.

Tip #2

Alcohol can increase the chance of negative behaviors and liability. If you are serving alcohol, consider serving beer and wine only, distribute drink tickets or consider a cash bar to decrease the chance that someone might imbibe too much. Note the ages of any younger employees to be sure you aren’t serving minors. Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Arrange for a cab service to be available to drive anyone home who should not be driving.

Tip #3

Assign one or more persons to abstain from alcohol and "monitor" the party at all times. This person can be on the lookout for someone who shouldn’t drive or they can spot a potential harassment issue.

Tip #4

Remind employees that your anti-harassment policy is in place at all times, regardless of the time of day or the location. Just because they are not "working" does not mean that they shouldn’t remain professional during the party. If employees are welcome to bring a guest, be aware that guests may not understand the company’s policy guidelines and that employees are responsible for their guests.

January is a popular time for legal HR issues to arise coming out of the holiday party season. But if you’re aware of potential risks and assume a heightened sense of employee behaviors, everyone is sure to have a great, risk-free time!