15 Tips for a Lawsuit-Free Holiday Office Party

Planning a holiday work party can be a headache, but dealing with the aftermath can be worse. Avoid nasty post-party surprises with these 15 tips.

Posted by Katie Yahnke in on November 8th, 2017

It's easier to prevent a lawsuit than it is to face one after it's been filed.
If you skimp on the holiday office party planning, the only gift you’ll be getting this year is an employment lawsuit.

Employers always run the risk of being liable for employee behavior after they’ve left the office holiday party, but after party guests have had several rum and eggnogs, the risk becomes even greater. And if you haven’t arranged safe rides home? Oh boy!

Want to save these tips for later? Download the 15 Tips for a Lawsuit-Free Holiday Party Cheat Sheet.

It’s easier to prevent a lawsuit than it is to face one after it’s been filed, and most incidents can be avoided with proper planning.

Follow these 15 tips to ensure your office holiday party runs smoothly and lawsuit-free.

Three colleagues taking a picture together at a workplace holiday party

1. Circulate relevant work policies

Review current company standards regarding unauthorized photos, videos and overall privacy.
This is arguably the most important precaution to take while planning your office holiday party. Consider:

  • The company code of conduct. The normal standards of the workplace still apply.
  • Zero-tolerance approach. Warn employees that the company is taking a zero-tolerance approach, and behavioral misconduct will be dealt with accordingly.
  • Rules regarding substance abuse. Review “responsible” alcohol consumption. Remind employees that drugs will not be tolerated.
  • Refreshing the social media policy. Review current company standards regarding unauthorized photos, videos and overall privacy.

2. Ask for signatures

Have employees sign a compliance sheet before the party. This is a good way to really get the point across about behavior at the office holiday party.

3. Review insurance policies

Some insurance companies may deny claims that involve alcohol consumption. Be aware of any exclusions in your policy.

4. Consider purchasing additional insurance

Consider purchasing server liability insurance.
Avoid gaps in coverage. If you’re hiring a bartender for the evening, consider purchasing server liability insurance.

5. Where’s the first aid kit?

Should disaster strike, you’ll want to know the location of the closest first aid kit and its contents. Also think about where the closest defibrillator and fire extinguisher are located. If disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did.

Did Donna dance a little too hard and slip? You’ll need to document it with this Incident Report Template.

6. Be inclusive

Avoid potential issues by providing a variety of games, food and drinks, not just those “Christmas” themed.

7. Keep the party optional

The last thing you want is to force an employee to come to the party and they get injured. They’re far more likely to be spiteful and pursue legal action if they didn’t want to be at the party anyway.

8. Encourage employees to bring a plus one

The presence of a significant other can reduce the odds that an employee will drink too much or behave inappropriately.

Sexual harassment is a big concern for holiday work parties. Should an incident happen, a Sexual Harassment Complaint Form is vital for the investigation.

9. Organize tons of games and activities

Keep guests busy and out of trouble with fun activities all night long.
Plan a variety of games, events, programs and speakers. Keep guests busy and out of trouble with fun activities all night long. Here are a few activities to plan for your corporate party:

  • Trivia
  • Charades
  • Employee Awards Ceremony
  • Gift-wrapping competition
  • Scavenger hunt (for a twist, make it a selfie scavenger hunt)
  • The Newlywed Game: Coworker Edition

10. Offer a wide variety of food

Make sure there is something for everyone at the party. Consider employees who might have allergies, sensitivities, preferences or religious restrictions.

11. Offer a wide variety of drinks

If the only options are water or wine, wine might be the best alternative. But if you’re offering different juices, soft drinks or virgin drinks, employees might opt for one of those instead.

12. Limit drinking time

Closing the bar two hours before the party ends is a good practices that many companies follow to allow partygoers to metabolize alcohol before leaving.

13. Opt for drink tickets or tokens

Instead of a free-for-all bar (paid or open) using drink tickets helps you to limit and/or monitor how much everyone is drinking.

14. Coordinate safe transportation

Coordinate designated drivers, taxis, public transit, Ubers and drive-you-home programs.
The company is responsible for intoxicated employees and may be liable for their behavior after they’ve left the premises. Avoid risks by coordinating designated drivers, taxis, public transit, Ubers and drive-you-home programs.

15. Speak up, intervene if you need to

Recruit volunteers who can keep an eye on things and are willing to intervene if necessary.

Katie Yahnke
Katie Yahnke

Marketing Writer

Katie is the marketing writer at i-Sight. She writes on topics that range from fraud, corporate security and workplace investigations to corporate culture, ethics and compliance.

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