You Don’t Have To Come to the Holiday Party. I Repeat….

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It’s holiday party time!  Time to throw up some sparkly lights, eat a bunch of food you don’t normally

Happy Holidays! Who's driving?

Happy Holidays! Who’s driving?

allow yourself, spend time chilling with people you normally have to focus with and open a bottle of….or not….

The whole holiday work party issue is a giant conundrum. After all, nobody wants to throw a lame holiday party that employees only come to because they know it’s expected. On the other hand, throwing a big holiday bash with lots of great food and drinks can be expensive, time consuming, and land you in a world of trouble.

We’re talking, of course, about the drinking and driving problem.  You may already know this, but if someone leaves your party, goes out and gets in an accident, you could be liable. It may be that the person snuck a fifth of bourbon into the party and that’s why he or she is drunk. It may be that the person left the party, was escorted home, and went back out again afterward, getting in an accident. In any case, as long as someone can make the case that this person was drunk because his job required him to come to your party, you can be liable.

It’s your party; you can cry if you want to.

You could, of course, have a non-alcoholic party. Give employees the afternoon off and instead hang around the office with catered food and no booze. That’s a completely viable option. Or decide in the spirit of the season to have a volunteer day for a local charity.

However, if you do want to include booze, there are some precautions you can take to protect yourself.

  1. They Don’t Have to Come: Make it clear, via the invitation or company email that attendance at your party is completely voluntary and not at all connected to a person’s job. This doesn’t sound very festive, but you’ll think of something.  Then don’t let anybody give anybody a hard time about not coming to the company party. That mitigates the idea that the person got drunk in performance of his job.
  2. Take it Off Site: Have the party off-site with professional bartenders who are trained to recognize people who’ve had a tinch too much. And limit the number of drinks served. How?  Hand out drink tickets. Of course, there is the chance that someone will try to be cagey and get others to give he the extras – urgh!  I know, but here is the time to remember to manage the exception and not make the exception the rule.
  3. Have Designated Drivers: Make sure there is alternate transportation to get the person home if he or she has clearly exceeded the recommended number of drinks.  Have “spotters” among your executives and managers whose job it is to circulate in the crowd and see that anyone who looks in danger of being hammered is cut off and has a ride home. Yes, we are all adults and should be responsible for ourselves, but it is a good precaution.
  4. Serve Cheese: Protein foods like meat, cheese and nuts retard the metabolism of alcohol. Serve a lot of them and less sugar. Sugar makes things worse.
  5. Call Your Insurance Broker: Find out what your risks and options are. Of course, if someone gets hurt, your liability won’t be your first concern. But it’s definitely a concern.

Of course, it’s so much better if you can just throw a big, fun party without having to worry about all that and you can but please consider your risks.  So figure out what your safest, merriest options are—you might involve employees in the question (empowerment!)—and just enjoy the holidays!


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.

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