Tips For Having a Successful (and legal) Holiday Company Party

It’s the holiday season, and that means parties, outings and more for you and your staff. While these events can be wonderful team building events, if not planned correctly, they could also be Petri dishes for legal problems.

Here are some things to think about before you throw that awesome party.

Are Employees Paid to Attend?

Most wage & hour laws say that if you require employees to attend the holiday party, you must pay them for the time they spend there.  This comes up in situations where the company president plans to make a speech or presentation about the past year’s performance and upcoming year’s goals, and so deems that attendance at the party is mandatory.

If the party occurs during normal work hours, the employees are being paid anyway.  However, in many companies, the party is scheduled after work hours.  In those situations, if attendance is mandatory, the employees that attend must be paid.   For non-exempt employees that work more than 40 hours that week, including time spent at the mandatory party, this will mean they get overtime pay.   So a best practice is to make attendance optional.  Most will attend anyway because . . .  it’s a party!

Watch the Alcohol

Dram shop laws hold companies liable for the acts of their intoxicated patrons/employees who drink and later cause injury to another.  Yes, you would be held responsible so avoid this at all costs. One way to do it is to control alcohol consumption! This is key to avoiding such liability.

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

  • Issue two drink tickets per person and then keep an eye on certain employees getting extra tickets from their co-workers!
  • Close the bar a few hours before the end of the party.
  • Have plenty of food. It will help reduce the effects of the alcohol once people start drinking.
  • Have a clear policy for servers not to serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated employees.
  • Lastly, have a plan to arrange cab service or carpooling for any employees who plan to drink. Use Uber or taxis to get your employees home safe.

Keep the Mistletoe at Home

Never, ever hang mistletoe at an office holiday party! Seriously. That, coupled with too much alcohol could be a contributor to a sexual harassment suit!

What About You?

Holiday parties are a great way to show your staff and subs your appreciation for all their hard work. Just be sure to do it right! Are there other pitfalls or concerns that you should be aware of that I forgot to mention? Please share in the comments below! And have a happy holiday season!

Is Your Website Protected from Theft?

We get a lot of emails from readers of our PowerTips newsletter. Most are complimentary and supportive of what we do as a company for remodelers. Others are comments or questions about the topic of the week.

Last week we received a good one that I’d like to share. It has to do with the copyright notice on your website and how (It turns out) most remodelers are doing it wrong.


Here’s the email we received:

You guys are awesome and are helping us manage growth…and business. Though you may want to see the below email from our web developer, not sure if it is even relevant. Thanks, John

And here’s the email John’s developer sent him (and the screenshot that was included):

The site you mentioned with reference to the article apparently has not taken the time to update their footer … since 2010.

Screenshot of Copyright footer

Yep. That’s our website.

I’ve answered hundreds of internet marketing questions over the years, but this is the first time anyone has brought up the copyright!

That made me realize that not only is it an overlooked topic, but likely misunderstood, too.

Two things that make for a great PowerTips article!


So… is John’s developer right?

Let’s dig in and get some clarity on the situation.

First, we should address if a copyright notice on your website is even necessary.

The 1988 Berne Convention Implementation Act amended the 1976 Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code) to make the use of a copyright notice optional on copies of works published after March 1, 1989.

So why do it? To cover your “assets.”

If you were to sue someone for infringement, a common defense is to claim innocent infringement, which at the very least would reduce the damages you could collect.

The notice, however, removes any doubt and establishes that the defendant knowingly infringed on your copyright.

§ 401.d is the relevant section of Title 17:

If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damage…

Okay, so now we know it’s not necessary, but it is recommended.


Does it need to be updated every year?

Again, I refer to 17 USC Section 401. It provides that copyright notices contain the following three elements:

  1. The symbol ©, the word “Copyright“, or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. The year of first publication.
  3. The name of the copyright owner.

As you can see, it’s the second element that is the relevant requirement: The year of first publication.  So, no you do not need to update your website’s copyright notice every year.

Actually, I’d take it a step further and suggest that you absolutely should not update the copyright to the current year.

Think about it. If you have a blog post dated December 4, 2014, and the footer on that page says, Copyright © 2016 My Company, LLC., then it could be argued that you do not claim protection rights before 2016. In this scenario, your notice is actually hurting you, by knowingly contradicting the date of the published work.


What about Copyrights that protect a span of time?

You may have seen this format before: Copyright © 2008 – 2016 My Company, LLC.

But is it okay to do?

As you recall, the second element of 17 USC Section 401 cited earlier is defined as a single year, that of first publication. So Copyright law does not expressly permit multiple years.

However, according to Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law, “such a notice is not a problem. Even though multiple years are not expressly permitted, the three required elements are present, albeit with some extraneous information.”

So, it would seem that a copyright notice with multiple years is, in fact, legitimate.

Personally, I do like the way the multi-year Copyright looks. And since it’s legally appropriate, perhaps I’ll switch ours over to that format in the near future. But for the time being, I’ll keep it the way it is. That’s one less thing to have to update in January. 😉

Warning

I’m sure it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: I’m not a lawyer. I didn’t even stay a Holiday Inn Express last night.

So this article is in no way dishing out legal advice. If you have concerns about protecting your intellectual property, you should consult a lawyer.

However, if you’d just like to chat about what you’ve just read then please, drop your comments in the box below!

Choosing the Right Entity for your Start-up or Scale-up

length 5:16 (not including bonus content)

Of all the choices you make when starting a business, one of the most important is the type of legal structure you select for your company.

But this is not a “set it and forget it” decision limited to start-ups. If you’re in scale-up mode, then you may want to re-evaluate if your business structure is still the right fit.

In this week’s episode, I’ll cover the four most common forms of business entities, and I’ll discuss the primary factors you should look at when considering the right choice for your business.

What about you?

Have you changed your business structure since it launched? What was the catalyst for the change? Share your story in the comments below!


Choosing the right business entity for scale-ups