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Holiday Parties | Top 10 Dos & Don'ts for Employers

Attorney for EmployersEmployer Defense Attorney


by Sue M. Bendavid


You've heard the saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. You want to celebrate a year of company achievements. You want to reward your employees for their hard work and dedication. Maybe you just want to improve morale.

Whatever the case, celebrate with caution. Here are several common sense Holiday Rules for every employer:

  1. Create Atmosphere – Set a tone of moderation before the party, via emails, memos, etc., reminding employees to consume responsibly, have someone else drive, etc. Sometimes inviting the employees' family members and/or important company clients can keep an air of festivity AND responsibility.

  2. Respect Diversity – Do not host company parties for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, or anything with religious references. A Holiday Party or End-of-Year Event should be general enough to not offend.

  3. Making a List? Don't! – Don't make attendance mandatory, and don't take attendance at the party. It's certainly not very festive, but worse, it increases your liability risk.

    Keep in mind that if you give year-end awards or bonuses at the party, employees may infer they are obliged to attend.

  4. Coordinate Logistics – Consider holding the party off company premises, after working hours, and provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Close the bar at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end.  

  5. Limit Libations – Limit alcohol consumption.  Possible methods are to give employee drink vouchers, keep the bar open for a limited number of hours, or avoid serving alcohol altogether.

  6. Kill the Mistletoe – Keep it out of your offices and your parties. The last thing you want is to have an employee complain about a co-worker's unwanted advances. 

  7. Shot Calling? Another Don't! – During the work day, supervisors and managers call the shots. But they should never POUR them or any other alcoholic beverages during a company party.

  8. Hire Professionals: Not only will caterers or restaurant managers provide bartenders, they also have staff to clean up spills and generally keep the premises clean and safe.

  9. Provide Transportation – If you can't pay for taxi cabs and limos, organize carpools or designate drivers. Secure discounts at nearby hotels for employees with long drives, or those who do over-imbibe. 

  10. Anticipate Trouble – You can't do it all yourself. Designate supervisors to help keep an eye out for the overly-intoxicated, the overly-amorous, and the overly-rude.

Sue M. Bendavid is a Defense Lawyer for Employers. Contact her via email if you have any questions about minimizing liability risk and preventing employee claims:


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