‘Tis the season of holiday parties. Employers want to show thanks to their employees, and the team wants to let their hair down. But in the era of the #MeToo movement and social media, employers should plan their office parties carefully to avoid their celebration turning into a lawsuit. Here are a few tips for limiting your company’s risk:
If you’re going to serve alcohol at the party, avoid hard liquor. It can accelerate inebriation. Instead, limit offerings to wine and beer. To offset the effects of alcohol, be sure to serve food.
Limit the number of free alcoholic drinks to curtail excessive drinking. An easy way to do this is by giving a small number of drink tickets to each employee.
Be sure to set a clear cut-off time for the party. Managers and supervisors should leave at the cut-off so that employees wanting to socialize longer are doing so on their own time.
While it may be boring to do so, the safest path for managers and supervisors is to either not drink at all or limit themselves to one or two drinks. They should remain clear-headed during the party.
Think about how employees will get home safely. Limit the risk of drunk driving or injuries by offering some transportation options.
Alcohol can often lead to flirting and physical contact that might not take place in a sober environment. Include a reminder about the company’s sexual harassment policy when you send the office party invitation. Remind managers and supervisors about their responsibilities and liabilities.
While it’s common to label the party a “Christmas” party, it’s best to stick to non-denominational descriptions. You’re better off with an “end of the year” or “holiday” party to avoid claims of religious discrimination. You can always wish a colleague Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas on a personal level, but the official company messaging should not be tied to a particular religion.
Particularly for employees in HR, management, or supervisory positions, remember that the office party is still work time. It’s not a license to reveal confidential information about other employees or the company just because there are decorations in the room.
Need Help Keeping the Office Party from Becoming a Lawsuit?
If you would like more information about how to limit your risk when it comes to office parties, sexual harassment, and other liabilities, please contact the Atlanta business attorneys at Stanton Law. Please email Todd Stanton at [email protected] or Manori de Silva at [email protected], or give us a call at 404-531-2341.