Keep Out Of Legal Trouble At Your Holiday Party

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It’s that time of the year again when many companies celebrate the upcoming holiday season by holding parties for their employees.  While these events are intended as an opportunity for your staff to relax and enjoy themselves, they can be a hotbed of potential liability for you and your business.  Even if you hold your event off-site, the law may hold you and your staff to the same level of conduct required in your actual workplace.

There are many potential legal issues that may arise out of activities occurring at holiday parties.  Here are several best practices that can help you avoid liability:

Keep company behavioral policies in effect:  While you want your employees to enjoy themselves, remind them to keep their conversations and conduct appropriate.  If your employee handbook addresses certain conduct as inappropriate, that conduct should not occur at your holiday party.  Harassment and safety considerations should remain intact, and you should ask your managers to monitor your employees’ behavior at your party and quickly address inappropriate conduct.  You may wish to distribute a written statement to your employees reminding them to adhere to company policies while at the party and encourage them to report their colleagues’ offensive behavior to the appropriate supervisors should such conduct violate the policies stated in your employee handbook.

What happens at the holiday party may not stay at the holiday party:  You should be mindful that you employees will likely bring their smartphones or digital cameras to your holiday party.  With a few clicks and within moments, something that occurs at your party may be uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or other social media websites and made available for the rest of the world to see.  Images, videos or other recordings from your party may portray your staff and business in a negative light, alienate potential customers, or show conduct that violates state or federal law, depending on what your employees upload.  Keep in mind that whatever you say or do, or whatever your employees may say or do, may end up online.  If you do not have a written social media policy, you should develop one now.  If you already have a written social media policy, or your employee handbook addresses social media use by employees, you will want to remind them that their conduct on social media will be governed by the same polices in effect at their workplace.

Watch the alcohol consumption:  For a host of reasons you should consider not serving alcohol at your party.  Depending on the laws of your particular state, you may find yourself liable for actions of employees who became intoxicated at your holiday party and subsequently injured themselves or others.  If you decide that you will make alcoholic beverages available to your employees, consider limiting the amount of drinks they may consume.  You can use a ticket or voucher system to effectively curtail alcohol consumption, avoid open bars altogether, and have an early “last call.”  Also encourage employees to utilize designated drivers or make taxi or shuttle service available at no charge so your employees can get home safely.

Image Courtesy of Telegraph UK

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