An end-of-year holiday party is a great way to celebrate your organization and the contributions of your employees. If done well, they can be a ton of fun, offer important relationship building opportunities and boost morale ahead of another new year.

 

There are also, however, plenty of potential pitfalls that could turn your well-intentioned party into a holiday headache. The last thing an employer needs is legal trouble stemming from a party planning oversight, or from employees eating, drinking, and being too merry.

 

Let us share five best practices for employers to keep in mind this holiday season.

 

  1. Inclusivity.  Many people equate the holidays with Christmas, but not everyone. While there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or any other religious holiday, it is best to be as inclusive of all people as possible. It is not only the safe thing to do, but, making sure everyone feels welcome to either participate or abstain may be the best course of action.

 

  1. Alcohol. One of the first decisions to consider is where to hold the event and whether to serve alcohol. Enjoying a few beers, a glass of wine or a cocktail can be a great way to lighten things up. You do not want to make drinking the main feature of the party, as it impairs judgement and can put you at risk of liability should an accident occur. Issuing 2-3 drink vouchers per person may be a reasonable option. Also, do not wait to contact your insurance company about potential liability as well.

 

  1. Behavior. The point of a holiday party is to enjoy your workmates without the stress of deadlines and project demands. It is critical for employees to understand that a degree of professionalism is still required. Under no circumstances should certain behavior, like sexual harassment, be allowed. Consider issuing an email reminder of your organization’s anti-harassment policies, and reiterate at the party that while you are all there to have a good time, inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.

 

  1. Voluntary. Holiday parties should be voluntary, and employees should know that they will not be in trouble if they choose not to attend. You may also want to give the option to bring a spouse or significant other. Making the party voluntary, in addition to being off-site and outside of normal company hours, can help ensure that the event has no ties to regular business, and raise complications such as overtime.

 

  1. Cost. Staying within budget is always key, but spending a bundle on a party can feel like a slap in the face to employees who feel under-compensated, or if the organization is facing layoffs. Be mindful of your culture as you plan this event.

 

We know, as an employer, this topic may raise concerns or you may be facing employment discrimination challenges. Do not wait to contact an experienced member of our team for a free case evaluation to discuss them. We are your local attorneys here to help you twenty four hours a day.