article compliments of BLR
Everyone wants to enjoy themselves at a party, and to that end, many people like to relax with a drink. So it’s common for employers to serve alcohol at their holiday parties – but when drinking gets excessive, things can get out of hand.
Jim Hendricks, a partner with the Chicago office of Fisher & Phillips, a national employment law firm, says that when employers serve alcohol at holiday parties, they need to take steps to avoid problems, such as unwanted sexual advances, off-color and inappropriate jokes, vulgar language, and arguments. Alcohol is often a major contributing factor to boorish holiday party behavior. Moreover, employees who consume too much alcohol can be a danger to themselves and others.
Hendricks offers the following tips for your holiday party planning in order to both allow your employees to enjoy themselves while avoiding legal trouble:
- Remind employees that normal work rules and standards apply to holiday parties.
- Schedule parties on a week night when employees may be less likely to overindulge.
- Make it clear the party is a voluntary event and attendance is not mandatory.
- Remind employees to drink responsibly and plan for safe transportation home.
- Review your insurance policies for alcohol-related exclusions.
- Provide employees with a limited number of drink tickets.
- Offer non-alcoholic beverages.
- Do not serve alcoholic punch or other beverages that make it difficult to gauge how much alcohol one consumes.
- Provide ample food and entertainment to prevent drinking from becoming the focus of the party.
- Serve foods that slow the absorption of alcohol, such as those high in protein or starch. Greasy or salty foods tend to encourage more alcohol consumption, so avoid them.
- Make sure the bartenders have been trained not to over-our drinks, not to serve guests who appear intoxicated, to handle rowdy guests and take other actions to limit harm or liability.
- Make sure underage guests and employees are not served alcohol.
- Do not have employees involved in tending bar or providing alcohol.
- Designate someone, preferably a supervisor, to refrain from drinking and to monitor the party with event staff to curtail excessive alcohol serving.
- Limit the length of the party and plan to close the bar an hour or so before the end.
- Arrange for designated drivers, reduced cab fares or hotel room rates, or offer to pay for cabs or hotel expenses if employees are obviously impaired by alcohol.
- Hire an off-duty policeman or security specialist to be present during and after the party.
Finally, in order to help avoid any instances of unwanted sexual advances, Hendricks also recommends that you do not hang mistletoe at your holiday party.