Well, it’s that time of year again. The last touches of autumn are fading away and festive decorations have sprouted up all over the country in anticipation of the holiday season. While the holidays and end-of-year festivities are surely something to celebrate, it’s important to know how to do so safely and responsibly…especially if you are the one hosting the soiree.
After a company party, no employer wants to hear the phrase “respondeat superior” mentioned in connection with an employee’s bad decisions. The following are some helpful suggestions for both employer and employee on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of holiday office parties.
Make attendance voluntary – As an employer, it’s possible that you could be held liable for an employee’s negative or negligent behavior if they are acting within the scope of employment during your holiday function. While the scope can vary depending on the scenario, if attendance at the holiday function is mandatory or could be construed as being mandatory, a court could likely find the employee’s actions fall within the scope of employment and, consequently, hold an employer liable.
Have a means of transportation available – If you plan on serving alcoholic beverages at your holiday party, have contact numbers handy for cab companies or ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft to safely transport your guests home.
Provide non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of food– Not all of your guests will want to throw back vodka tonics or glasses of wine all night (nor should they), so having an assortment of non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of food and water available for party-goers is a must.
Conduct yourself professionally – Company policies surrounding harassment (sexual or other) are still in effect even though it is a party, so conduct yourself accordingly.
Think before you speak – Avoid sensitive topics of conversation that may be offensive to other partygoers. What may not be offensive to you might be to others and vice versa.
Push a religious message with your party – While many people may relate to a “Christmas party”, you run the risk of ostracizing a particular religion or group of people when you limit your celebration to one religion or religious holiday. If you host a “holiday party” instead, you can avoid excluding particular groups of people and rather invite everyone to celebrate the particular season voluntarily. This could also help to alleviate any potential employment discrimination claims arising from religious-themed mandatory company parties.
Dress unprofessionally – Company policies surrounding dress code are still in effect even though it is a party so conduct yourself accordingly.
Overindulge on alcohol – It seems inevitable that there will always be at least one co-worker who is either unaware of their alcohol limitations or throws caution to the wind at the holiday party… don’t be that person. Limit your number of alcoholic drinks, drink plenty of water and remember to eat.
For a more in-depth exploration into some of the pitfalls of holiday hosting, take a look at the ABA article Holiday Party Liability: Cases on Social Host Liability, Office Party Suits and More
Disclaimer: This blog post is made available for general informational purposes, is based on the author’s opinion and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the publisher of this blog post. This blog post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your jurisdiction.
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