Human Resources News & Insights

The 5 sure-fire ways to get sued for your holiday party

It’s nearly the end of the year, so better start planning your awesome holiday party — and the legal team you may need to field afterward. 

Robin E. Shea, writing on the Employment & Labor Insider blog, came up with five sure-fire ways to throw a legally treacherous holiday party:

  1. Serve a ton of alcohol. While you’re at it, why bother with food? Beer is food.
  2. Let bad behavior slide. Don’t be a stick in the mud. It’s a party — let people go crazy.
  3. Don’t invite spouses or family members. Keep those balls and chains home.
  4. Get non-exempt staffers to help set up — then refuse to pay them. Those non-exempters should be grateful they’re even invited.
  5. Send staffers into the night — without any help. If your employees drank too much, that’s their fault, right?

On a more serious note, Shea concluded by noting that:

… as we approach super-intense-workplace-party season, please be careful. If you serve alcohol, place reasonable limits on consumption, serve plenty of food, and make sure you have alternate transportation available for those who can’t drive home safely.

Make sure everyone understands the harassment policy before the party, and keep your eyes open for behavior that could lead to trouble — try to intervene tactfully before it goes too far. Spouses and significant others can be great “natural” controls on behavior, too. Watch out for wage and hour issues, especially related to employees who may help out before, during, or after the party.

Be welcoming to all, but don’t be so “tolerant” that you become intolerant.

Where have all the parties gone?

If you think handling all seems like a lot of work for HR, you’re not alone.

The ubiquitous year-end holiday shindig may be going the way of the dodo, according to a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Researchers discovered that:

  • almost a quarter of employees dread attending company parties
  • nearly 30% of employers don’t offer a holiday party at all
  • one in ten staffers regret something they said at a company party, and
  • more than 35% of employers utilize policies or rules to keep behavior and/or alcohol consumption in check. Without these policies, three in ten employees attending a holiday event where beverages are served say they don’t monitor their alcohol consumption.
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