Holiday Parties – Good or Bad?

December 11th, 2012

The year-end holidays are a time of good fellowship and cheer. Many business owners understandably are attractive to the idea that a get-together with employees, and perhaps including significant others, will bring good will to all and enhance the start of a new year.

All that can be true. But without some cautions, such an event can result in liability disasters. And I’m not thinking about the potential for the resulting harassment claims, though those too exist.

Speaking of truth, in an earlier life I was an executive of a large company. And the founding family proudly hosted wonderful a Holiday Party every year. Tragedy struck one year during my tenure, when an employee was tragically run down by an auto and killed while crossing the street to the party venue! I don’t remember the fallout, but I do remember the liability concerns expressed because there was some implied “requirement” that the employee attend.

So can the liability risks be reduced? Yes. Here are some things I urge you to follow!

· In the invitation be crystal clear that while all are welcome to attend, there is no compulsion, overt or otherwise to do so.

· Do NOT have an open bar. Permit each attendee [and only those of legal drinking age] to have two drink tickets and no more. And do not permit bartenders to supplement for cash purchases. [It is, then, incumbent upon the employer to tip the bar staff appropriately.]

· Provide free alternative transportation home, again without any consequences to the attendee.

· Be watchful for inappropriate behavior by anyone – sexual or otherwise – and intercede as necessary.

· While the above assures an out-of-home venue, the same guidelines apply to all parties.

· Check with your own insurer to be sure there are no special “social host” or “liquor liability” policies or riders you should consider.

An employer hosting a holiday function can be a positive experience for all. But be thoughtful in your planning. And the business owners or managers attending are expected that their behavior will be above reproach!!

Happy Holidays!



Biz Law News™ postings are provided for informational purposes only – they are not presented specific to any individual’s personal circumstances; they are not legal or tax advice and should not be construed as such.. They cannot in any way create an attorney-client relationship. Opinions and biases expressed or inferred are the author’s only. Believed-reliable third party materials are frequently used. Each reader, as appropriate, should seek independent advice from a tax or legal professional.

2012 © Gordon A Carpenter