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Hosting A Holiday Party? Tips to Limit Your Legal Exposure

‘Tis the season for holiday parties and the spreading of good cheer in the workplace.  Unfortunately, too much cheer can cause liability for employers. If your Company plans to serve alcohol at the holiday party, the organization could be at risk for legal liability if a drunken employee harms himself or others.  To minimize this risk, use these tips to assist in planning an alcohol safe event.

  • Talk about your Company culture with employees emphasizing that drinking to excess is unacceptable during company events. Include alcohol usage guidance in your Company code of conduct.
  • Always serve food, such as appetizers, from the start of the event so employees are not drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid having drinking as the main focus of the event. Provide entertainment, speeches, presentations, or other activities for employees to participate in at the event.
  • Consider serving just beer and wine, no liquor. Avoid serving drinks such as punch that limit an employee’s ability to assess how much alcohol they are drinking.
  • Limit the number of drinks the Company provides by using drink tickets or another informal method of tracking the amount of alcohol served.
  • Limit the number of hours that the bar is open. For example, close the bar during dinner and at a reasonable time to signal the drawing to a close and ending of the event.
  • Use trained bartenders to serve alcohol; never allow employees to serve coworkers or themselves. Also, make sure your bartenders are clear that they are not to serve alcohol to any person who appears to be inebriated.
  • Recruit your managers and event planning committee members, in advance, to keep their eyes open for employees who may be overindulging. Offer the employee a ride home, call and pay for a cab, or make certain that a designated non-drinking driver takes the wheel.

Employers need to be aware of the potential liability associated with holiday parties; but with a little a planning, holiday parties can be safe and liability-free.

Please feel free to call and/or email Cobbe Law directly with any questions or concerns.   Happy Holidays!

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