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Saturday, December 20, 2014
The Holiday Party "Hangover"
The fun of a holiday party can end in serious problems if they are not carefully monitored. You will usually find too much drinking and carousing before the party is over, followed by too many people headed out in their cars when they shouldn't be driving. This is a formula for disaster, and a formula that too often is self fulfilling.
I read an article in Law 360 that make some good points on how to reduce the chances for post party problems this year.
Gathering workers together for holiday
merriment is a beloved tradition for many employers, but holiday parties can
open the door to discrimination and harassment claims, as well as other
potential legal problems.
A festive setting can build team cohesiveness,
but it can also magnify employees' natural human tendency to do silly or even
offensive things, particularly if alcohol is involved. That can give
potentially litigious workers a stand-alone justification for a legal claim or
add ammunition to the arsenal of someone alleging a broader pattern of unlawful
"Bad behavior happens at work a lot,
but parties and after-hours events tend to bring out out the worst in a lot of
folks," Fisher & Phillips LLP partner Andria Ryan said.
Of course, companies can completely stave
off potential holiday party-related legal liability by declining to hold any
celebration at all. But for the droves of employers that don't want to be
lumped in with the Grinch, here are some steps that can mitigate risks.
You don't need this guy to happen
Limit Alcohol Intake
At the top of the list of smart moves for
employers holding holiday parties is limiting how much alcohol workers drink.
Drinking is the main culprit when it comes to employee misbehavior at office
parties, lawyers warn.
an open bar and no rules regarding consumption can be a recipe for
disaster," Ford & Harrison LLP partner Aaron Zandy said.
"Unfortunately, alcohol can cause employees to act unprofessionally and to
do things they wouldn't otherwise do."
are a variety of steps employers can take to keep alcohol consumption down, the
most obvious of which would be having a party that's entirely free of any
alcoholic beverages. Most of Ryan's clients don't go that far, she said, but
noted that some companies hold family events where the presence of spouses and
children can stymie rowdy behavior.
dry party isn't in the cards, encouraging moderation in advance is a good idea,
as is avoiding an open bar. Using drink tickets to allot each worker a
reasonable amount of holiday cheer can work, though workers may hand those
drink tickets off to one another.
food also makes sense - it won't limit the amount of alcohol consumed but can
curb intoxication. Keeping hard liquor off the menu can also be a sound decision.
Even someone who's determined to get drunk on the employer's dime will have to
work harder at achieving intoxication if less concentrated drinks are the only
a lot harder to pound beer and get smashed," Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
partner Mark Konkel said.
also noted that bringing in a professional bartender to serve workers can be a
smart move, because a veteran barkeep will be trained to notice when a patron
has had too much. Regardless of whether a pro is behind the bar or a worker
volunteers for bartender duty, they should know it's OK to cut someone off.
is serving should be instructed by the employer to be willing to pour shorter
drinks or take other steps to mediate consumption of alcohol," Konkel
said. "It's a work-related party, it's not a frat-house party."
If you keep the points of this article in mind this year you will more likely to have all of your employees back for the start of 2015. Have yourself a fun and joyful party, but keep things to a level where the "hangover" made the party not worth having. ;o)