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!