Avoid A Holiday Lawsuit

Daren Brown
By Daren Brown | March 19, 2019

invitation-party-christmasMany employees look forward to the annual company holiday party. It is a time to celebrate the season and the end of a busy year. Employees, and their significant others, can gather for fun and cheer. Unfortunately, among the holidaymakers, there can be problems. How can a company avoid situations that can lead to lawsuits?

Potential Holiday Problems

Special events during the holiday season can cause a number of problems if things are not managed properly. Here are a few situations to consider:

  • The party is in full swing, and the alcohol is flowing. Someone decides to pull a co-worker underneath the mistletoe and steal a kiss. The co-worker does not consent to the activity. Sexual harassment.

  • An employee has had a bit too much to drink at the party and decides to go to the bathroom. On the way there, the employee trips and breaks an ankle. Work injury.

  • The plans were to have everyone use a designated driver to get home safe. One designated driver couldn't make it. Someone who was supposed to ride with that person is legally drunk and determined to drive home while inebriated. Employer liability.

Protecting The Company

These are just a few scenarios that can spark legal action after an employee party. What can a business do to avoid or mitigate these kinds of problems? Here are a few things you can do before the party to make it fun for everyone:

  • Keep the sexual harassment policy up-to-date and inclusive of employer-sponsored events. Before the holiday party, everyone should be reminded of the policy and that it applies even at parties.

  • Verify that injuries at employer events are covered by liability and workers' compensation policies. A quick call to the insurance agent can protect the company from unexpected incidents.

  • Make it a family event. One way to keep employees from losing their minds at the Christmas party is to invite spouses and children. Most adults won't misbehave in front of children. Limit your part to a couple of hours not an “all night” party.

  • Have food and snacks at your event. Food always buffers the alcohol and slows down the consumption of it.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol served. Hire a bartender, this one is probably the most critical. Have them not do double shots to the drinks. Keep them on the lighter side. When someone drinks too much, inhibitions go down. This can lead to inappropriate behavior, which could be dangerous for the individual as well as the company. Make sure your bartender cuts people off that have had “too much.” This is a sure way that employees do not get to mix their own drinks.

  • Hire a car service for employees. Having a bus or taxi service available will help keep people from driving while intoxicated. That is safer for everyone, including the company. If you see that someone is “feeling too good” be prepared to send them home with provided car service.

  • Finally, be the last ones to leave the party. Make sure everyone has left and no damage done to anyone or anything.

Prevention and mitigation are the best ways to avoid problems with your company's holiday party. If a problem arises, however, call on the attorneys at Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo. We can help your company deal with the problems in the least disruptive way.

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Topics: Business