Holiday parties with your coworkers provide a great bonding opportunity and can boost morale and connection with the company. They also
provide opportunity for colossal lapses in judgment among people with whom lapses in judgment are usually carefully avoided.
Employers everywhere wrestle with the question of how to have a party that’s fun and festive without risking dreadful liability. The fact is, if alcohol is served, and someone drives home drunk and gets in an accident, your company can be held responsible.
In fact, even if the party is not company-sponsored, but is an employee gathering and a manager is present, more courts are beginning to hold the company responsible.
The bottom line is you don’t want employees hurt. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, last year’s holiday season saw 2,462 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas, resulting in 842 serious injuries and 78 fatalities. The department has an annual P.A.S.S. (Person Appointed to Stay Sober) campaign to improve the chances every partier has a safe ride home.
There are a lot of ways to tackle the holiday festivity question:
- Drink Tickets You can give each employee two tickets worth one drink apiece and limit their consumption. There are a couple of problems with this. One is that there’s often one employee who is shameless enough to beg drink tickets from the teetotalers in the group and he or she is the one you didn’t want behind the wheel in the first place.
Secondly, this policy could be construed as treating all employees like the one or two out-of-control ones. Many employees won’t appreciate that so it harms your company relationships, rather than helping. Better to manage for the rule rather than the exception.
- Alternate Rides Home Companies should provide rides home for anyone perceived to have had too much alcohol. Employees should be told in advance that this service will be provided and any employee perceived to be inebriated must accept a ride. If your party has a caterer with a bartender, the bartender should know that he or she is not to serve alcohol to someone who has had too much to drink and must notify a manager when such a person is identified.
- Alter the Menu Salty foods tend to increase people’s desire to drink and sweet foods contribute to the effects of alcohol. Offer plenty of protein and starchy foods that stay in the system longer and absorb alcohol.
- Daytime Parties A company can avoid the situation altogether by having a party in the office, during the day, with no alcohol. One of our clients decided to use the holidays to celebrate the company’s diversity by having everyone bring a food item from their home country or region. It was a nice afternoon, with everyone sharing stories about the places where they grew up.
Besides not wanting liability, no one wants a tragedy to mar the holidays. A little precaution can keep your party as a celebration.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.