Tis the season for employer holiday parties - caution advised!

November 7, 2014

Many employers sponsor holiday parties or employee appreciation events during the winter months. While these are enjoyable times of camaraderie, they are not without risk.

To serve or not to serve

Do you provide alcohol at your company gatherings? If so, do you know how to keep your employees and your business safe? When you provide the libations, there is no way to entirely eliminate potential liability; however there are ways to minimize the risk.

Before the event 

  1. Check your business liability insurance to be certain it covers your party activities.
  2. If in any doubt as to your responsibilities, contact your attorney.
  3. Send written reminders to party invitees of expected behaviors and risks, as well as your plans to minimize the risk.

During the event

  1. Limit the amount: Hosting an unlimited open bar is not recommended. If you want to “gift” your employees with beverages, do so with a limited number of alcoholic drinks. This is typically done by providing drink tickets to your guests. Two per person is a traditional, and reasonable, number. Be very generous with non-alcoholic beverages. 
  2. Hire the bartender/s: If you are holding your event at a hotel, restaurant or recreational establishment, let them tend the bar. It is best not to hold an event which includes alcohol on your company premises, but if you do, hire a caterer with bar-tending services.
  3. Have spotters: Assign specific company leaders to keep an eye out for potential trouble. Train them on what to watch for, and what do to if they observe a problem. Be alert to potential sexual harassment, property damage, bullying, excessive horseplay, falls, etc.
  4. Beware serving underage individuals: Know the ages of your employees. Under no circumstances should the underaged be served alcohol at a company function. Don’t provide alcoholic beverage tickets to anyone underage! If employees bring guests to your party, you will likely not know their ages. Be certain that the contracted bartenders are appropriately asking for identification.
  5. Provide transportation: Be sure that your employees do not drive while under the influence of alcohol consumed at your company event. Make arrangements for taxi service, shuttle service or other safe means of transportation. The avoidance of tragedy is well worth the cost of providing this transportation.

A little caution and foresight will protect you, your business and your employees. Enjoy the Season!

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