- Your policies regarding harassment and discrimination still apply. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, and, all too often, this can manifest itself in bad behavior. It’s not unheard of for a co-worker to inappropriately touch another co-worker, for someone to tell a vulgar joke, or for someone to call a co-worker a derogatory name. Any inappropriate behavior must be addressed in the same manner as the company would during the normal course of work. The party-like atmosphere and use of alcohol is no excuse for bad behavior at any work-related event. Make sure your employees understand that your policies are still applicable and they will be held accountable for their bad behavior.
- The organization can be sued for negligence. If an employee imbibes too much alcohol at your event and then drives home, your company can be held liable if s/he injures (or worse, kills) someone while driving under the influence. Can your organization limit your liability? YES, and we’ll describe how you can do that below.
- You can minimize your risk for liability at holiday parties by taking a few simple precautions:
- Consider hosting an event that is alcohol-free. This could include catering lunch at your facility instead of hosting a big event with spouses at a restaurant or hotel. It can also include putting an end to the alcoholic punch that’s served the last day of work before Christmas. Instead, opt for a non-alcoholic punch that won’t impair your employees’ ability to drive home.
- If you choose to serve alcohol, host the party off-site, outside of regular office hours, and make it completely voluntary. Be sure to also offer a variety of non-alcoholic options.
- Make sure food is served. Food – especially high protein foods – can help slow down the rate of alcohol absorption. It doesn’t have to be fancy…cheese & crackers, nuts, etc.…will all help slow the effects of alcohol on the body.
- Limit how much alcohol your employees can consume. Provide drink tickets to employees to limit their consumption of alcohol to 1 or 2 drinks during the course of the event, and don’t have an “open bar” where employees can purchase additional alcoholic beverages. Also, limit the amount of time the bar is “open”.
- Hire a professional to serve the alcoholic beverages. Professional bartenders are experienced in monitoring the alcohol consumption of their customers. Allow the bartender to use their experience to minimize how much liquor is imbibed.
- Make sure alcohol isn’t served to employees who are under age 21. These individuals should be clearly identified with a bracelet, pin, etc. so that the person serving the alcoholic beverages knows the person is not legally permitted to drink.
- Task your managers and supervisors with being “on duty” to monitor behavior to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand.
- Educate employees about the dangers of drinking and driving and remind them that your workplace policies are still applicable at the holiday party.
- Take away the keys of those who are obviously intoxicated. Arrange for a taxi or rideshare service (at no cost to the employee) to provide transportation home for those who are unable to drive home safely.
- Check your organization’s general liability insurance policy and consult with your broker to review any additional coverage you may need.
Tips to share with employees:
- Know your limits. Enjoy, but don’t overindulge. Don’t jeopardize your reputation or your employment with bad behavior due to overuse of alcohol.
- Be mindful of your behavior. This is still a company event, and our non-discrimination and non-harassment policies still apply.
- Don’t pressure others. Many individuals choose not to drink alcoholic beverages for a variety of reasons. Respect those choices your colleagues have made and don’t pressure them into drinking alcohol.
- Be safe. Don’t drink and drive. A taxi or rideshare home will ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.
Don’t let the Grinch steal joy from this celebration of the season. When handled properly (nothing in excess; everything in moderation), alcohol can remain part of company parties without compromising fun or integrity.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!