How to Throw a Safe Holiday Office Party (And Avoid Litigation)
During the recession, many companies cut back on extra expenditures like the office holiday party, but it’s making a comeback. Although they have a reputation of being rowdy, office parties improve morale and camaraderie within the organization when handled well. If your company wants to throw a holiday office party, you have a few options and considerations to go over first to make it fun for employees while avoiding litigation.
First, what kind of holiday party do you want to have? You can host a party off-site for employees after hours, or you can convert your office space into a party zone during or after hours. Providing an after hours venue can be a positive change of scenery for your staff, but it does add to the expense and can lead to increased alcohol consumption.
If you’re the one organizing an after-hours holiday office party, you likely want as many people to come as possible. But don’t make it mandatory. Your staff won’t have as much fun, and having fun is the point of the party. If you have the party during business hours, make sure everyone is given the opportunity to come. Gift-giving programs like “Secret Santa” can also be fun, but a Human Resource Executive Online article said requiring participation in such a program could lead to religious-discrimination litigation. You can still offer Secret Santa — it just needs to be optional and open to everyone.
How to Limit Drinking at an Office Party
The big fear for many companies is that employees will drink too much at a holiday office party and do something they’ll regret (and result in litigation), such as saying sexually harassing remarks to a coworker or telling racist jokes. Human Resource Executive Online has several effective tips for keeping the drinking down:
- Hire a professional bartender. It’s an added expense, but a bartender checks IDs and knows when to cut people off. Serving limits can also be enforced. Don’t ask an employee to be bartender — that will put unwanted pressure on him.
- Provide food and other types of drinks. The focus shouldn’t be solely on alcohol.
- Invite the families of your employees. If spouses and children are attending, your employees aren’t likely to throw back shots all night. Making it a family affair lets your employees know you care about them without the huge bar tab.
- Remind employees before the party that they are expected to follow workplace-conduct policies at the event. Encourage them to have fun, but they should know what behavior is expected of them.
Remember to Have Fun!
The holiday office party is intended to bring staff members together and deepen their connection to one another. Hosting a party also shows the company cares for its employees. Plan it carefully and you can enjoy the party without fearing unnecessary litigation.
The information provided in this blog is intended for general information purposes only. Readers should seek the help of an HR professional for guidance on specific issues.