Hosting a Company Holiday Party? Beware the Liabilities

5/9/2019 | Dennis Trusty

Every December, office buildings and businesses across the country partake in end of the year and seasonal parties. From holiday-themed events to celebrating a great year in sales, for example, businesses have plenty of reason to come together and have a party. While these parties are great for morale and an opportunity for employees to come together and have a great time, they also pose a number of risks for companies.

Holiday parties present a number of liabilities for business owners and company executives. Even with the best intentions going into a party, there are still moments that can go awry, bringing up a potential for legal liability issues. Having awareness in store around planning will help to alleviate the stress of potential risks.

Effective Party Planning

It’s more than typical to see alcohol provided at a company party. While alcohol is a great way to lift spirits, it can pose a number of risks. Every state has a different list of laws regarding the liability a company or party host has when they provide alcohol at an event. This comes into play when someone from the party goes off and gets involved in an accident or altercation of some kind. Even if the company isn’t directly liable for something that happens outside their grounds, they may still have to face thousands of dollars proving they were not at fault.

The first step companies can take when it comes to cleaning up risks is to invest in professional liability insurance which protects businesses when legal issues arise. But, while having professional liability insurance in place is a good thing to have, it pays to be smart before parties begin. One way this can be done is to not provide alcohol at the party or allow it on premises in any capacity. If there is alcohol involved in party plans, companies can limit drinks by offering tickets or closing the bar early so employees don’t have the opportunity to go back for drink after drink.

Keeping Employee Behavior Under Control

Holiday parties and end of the year celebrations can lead to a number of issues, such as drunken behavior, sexual advances, lewd behavior and other conduct that is deemed as harassment. This is why having professional liability insurance is a good idea to look into.

Companies should emphasize the importance of employee behavior at parties, especially when alcohol is involved. All guidelines of a built-in policy, say one that points to sexual harassment, should be applied to the seasonal parties. Even if something occurs offsite or after hours, companies should stress that any instance where one employee makes another or several other employees uncomfortable is not allowed and will lead to disciplinary action.

Companies can also send memos around that point to the importance of employee behavior. A lack of tolerance should lead to discipline, and making this part known should encourage employees to cut out any lewd actions.

Having a good deal of common sense in place before festivities begin will help to prepare for the worst while also having a good time. Employees should be encouraged to participate in seasonal parties, but also be directed to go about it all responsibly so everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.