Smart Employer-Sponsored Holiday Parties

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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.

A Few Suggestions to Consider

Alternate Rides Home — Providing rides home for anyone perceived to have had too much alcohol has been a common solution for many years. With ride-sharing added to the options of designated drivers, more employees are making that decision for themselves, which is great. Do consider how you will handle situations where you need to make that decision for the employee.

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.

Offer Activities — Rather than just dinner and drinks, consider an activity or two. Dancing to a band or DJ can burn off some alcohol. Or build it around a theme, perhaps an interactive game. Or, sponsor a special cause or charity.

Daytime Parties — A company can avoid the situation altogether by having a party in the office, during the day, with no alcohol. Here’s an idea: celebrate the diversity of your employees by having everyone bring a favorite potluck dish from their childhood, home country or region. It would give everyone a chance to share stories about the places where they grew up and the meaning of holiday traditions.

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 customized HR support designed for your business. Have questions or need help? Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.


We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.