If your company had an extra successful year, then it is natural to want to reward the employees that helped make that year great by throwing them an extra special holiday party. Not only is it great to reward those who help your company stay successful, but it will also keep workplace morale high as the new year rolls in and motivate your workers to make next year even better. As you are planning that party, remember that just as accidents can happen in the workplace during the workday, they can also happen at parties. You don't want such a great year to end on a bad note when an employee becomes injured and you then have to pay for their medical bills, missed time from work, and even pain and suffering. Read on to learn dos and don'ts to protect your company from personal injury claims that could stem from a holiday party gone wrong.
Don't Think That Having Your Party Off-site Protects You from Liability
It is very important to forget any misconception you have that hosting your party at an outside venue will keep any injury or problem that occurs "out of your hair" legally. Anytime your employees are at an employer-sponsored event, which includes your company holiday party, your company can be held legally liable for any mishaps, including injuries.
In fact, hosting the party at your usual place of business can have its advantages. If you host it on-site, your employees will not "forget" so easily that they are with co-workers, and this can naturally lead to them behaving as if they were officially on-the-job.
However, if your workplace is small and or you just simply don't want to have your party in the office for any other reason, just remember that you are not "free and clear" of legal hassles just because your party is not at your official office.
Do Take Serving Alcohol Very Seriously If you Choose To
Many business owners have simply stopped having alcohol served at their holiday parties to avoid the legal hassles that it can cause. When alcohol is served at your party, it opens you up to the legal ramifications of sexual harassment if an employer were to overindulge and decide to get "playful" with other employees, racial discrimination if someone gets drunk and engages in racial slurring and, of course, injuries that can occur when a person drinks too much and then stumbles and falls. You could even be held liable if an employee who drinks too much then decides to drive and injures someone on the road.
There are a couple of options that can help minimize your legal liability if you decide to have alcohol served at your holiday party. One option is to hire a bartender from an insured, third-party vendor. Not only are bartenders trained to stop serving anyone who appears intoxicated, but also, if an employee were to drink too much and then drive and injure someone, your attorney can argue that the vendor is liable for the injury and not your company.
Another option is to provide non-transferable drink tickets to every employee. Stick to one or two tickets per person, and make sure they are printed with the employee's name on them (the bartender can match the ticket with the employee's name badge). If you were to provide drink tickets that are not linked to any specific employee, the employees at your company who do not drink could pass their tickets on to one or two people who can then use them to overindulge. About one alcoholic beverage is metabolized by the average human body each hour, so if your employees drink two beverages in a several hour period, they are unlikely to become intoxicated.
Whether you hire a bartender from a third-party vendor, use a drink ticket system or both, offer free taxi cab rides to anyone who wants them to get home safely when serving alcohol at your holiday party.
While it is important to reward your employees for a great year by throwing them a great holiday party, realize that no company party should be a "free for all" full of heavy alcohol consumption and the inappropriate behavior that it can cause, and remember that having your party off-site does not keep you free and clear legally if bad behavior or injuries occur. If you just had a holiday party gone wrong and an employee injured themselves, then consult with a personal injury lawyer who can help you figure out if you are liable for the injury based on the party facts you can provide them.