Although many holiday office parties have been toned down this year (or canceled) in light of the recession, there are certainly plenty of others moving forward.
Last year, I did a series of posts on the subject from an employment law perspective. In general, and besides the obvious sexual harassment issues that always seem to be a concern for employers, I highlighted some issues for employers to think about that I’ll recap again here. (For more details, click here and here.)
- Be aware of potential claims arising from employees drinking at such parties and driving afterwards. Although Connecticut has been skeptical of claims in the past, employers ought to be concerned about being liable to third persons based on the actions of an employee who gets drunk at the office holiday party. Putting reasonable limits on the amount of alcohol, or offering free taxi rides homes, is a way to reduce exposure.
- If alcohol is served, what type of alcohol will be served? Just beer and wine? Providing a cash bar can also reduce the incentive for employees to "load up" on free drinks and keep drinking to a moderate level. Of course, you can also make it an alcohol-free event as well.
- Inviting spouses or guests can also encourage employees to be on their best behavior.
- Make sure employees understand that attendance at the event is voluntary and that attendance will not help a person’s standing within the company.
- And always be sure followup on any complaints that may arise at or after the party.
For human resource professionals, this time of year can be particularly challenging. But perhaps you can be glad that you don’t have to deal with the same issues as those in Great Britain, as you may recall from a story from Great Britain from last year.