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With Thanksgiving now well behind us and COVID something that feels more manageable than in past years (notice my use of “feels”), some companies are planning for their first holiday party in four years.

Of course, I’ve written about holiday parties before and much hasn’t changed. The biggest change from 2019 is that cannabis is now legal to use. While companies are free to bar its usage, thinking about what you would do if employees do use cannabis is a worthy exercise. We haven’t yet seen companies offering cannabis along side of alcoholic beverages, but I have no doubt that will happen soon enough.

In the meantime, I thought I’d create a modest checklist of items to think about when planning your workplace holiday event. None of this is particularly novel but you might find it useful to think about as you enter into holiday season.

  • Cannabis / Alcohol Consumption Policies:
    • Establish and communicate clear alcohol consumption policies.
    • Remind employees that workplace policies extend to company-sponsored events.
    • Designate a responsible party to monitor alcohol consumption and make sure your servers know when to cut someone off. Open bars are fun until they’re not.
  • Non-Discriminatory Practices:
    • Ensure holiday party invitations and themes are inclusive and non-discriminatory.
    • Avoid religious or culturally exclusive themes to foster a diverse and welcoming environment.
  • Transportation Arrangements:
    • If appropriate, arrange transportation options for employees, such as shuttles or ride-sharing services.
    • Encourage responsible commuting and remind employees that drunk or buzzed driving is never appropriate.
  • Harassment Prevention:
    • Reiterate the company’s commitment to a safe and respectful environment.
    • Remind employees of anti-harassment policies and provide reporting avenues.
    • Conduct swift and thorough investigations for any reported incidents.
    • Clearly communicate that attendance at holiday parties is voluntary.
  • Venue Liability:
    • Understand the legal implications of hosting an event at a third-party venue.
    • Review contracts carefully to identify responsibilities and liabilities for both the employer and the venue.
  • Gift Exchanges:
    • Consider donations to charitable organizations instead of allowing/requiring employees to exchange gifts
    • If gifts are exchanged, consider setting a dollar limit to discourage inappropriate gift choices.
  • Document Policies and Communication:
    • As noted above, make sure you have policies that address conduct at holiday parties so there is no confusion afterwards about the coverage.
    • Among the policies your company may consider: cannabis/alcohol consumption, anti-harassment, and code of conduct.
    • Make sure you have clearly communicated these policies.
  • Other Considerations
    • Emergency procedures
    • Dietary accommodations
    • Photography and social media
    • Followup communications with employees post-event