Do not let holiday celebrations lead to regrets in the future

2022 will see us return to in-person parties. We must remember that we might be sharing legal problems and party favors.

Employers should plan for more than food and celebrations (and hand sanitizer). Employers need to be aware of the potential legal pitfalls. Employers should be mindful of the following:

  • Protect your employees from sexual harassment by setting clear policies and setting the tone.
  • Manage alcohol consumption.
  • Worker’s compensation exposure should be minimized. Also, use licensed vendors for food and other party-related activities.
  • Reduce wage and hour risk.

Practical Law’s Holiday Party Liability Prevention Checklist can help employers protect their interests while keeping the holidays happy. Here are some tips from the Checklist that will help you avoid alcohol-related litigation. For more guidance, see the complete resource.

Lower the Risk of Alcohol-Related Unintentional Accidents

The event can be held at a restaurant or another off-site location. Employers should host holiday parties at licensed establishments with liquor licenses. These establishments will serve alcohol by professionals trained to handle guests who consume excessive alcohol.

For on-site events, hire a professional caterer or bartender. Employers may need to verify that the caterer has liability insurance. They should also instruct waitstaff and bartenders not to serve intoxicated anyone. Employees shouldn’t be allowed to serve drinks or act as bartenders to coworkers.

Limit alcohol consumption. Employers can try to limit alcohol consumption.

Limiting the number of drinks tickets and the time that alcohol is served at the event; entertainment to shift the attention away from alcohol; offering a range of non-alcoholic beverages as an alternative;

Offer alternative transportation. Employers may consider offering rides to employees leaving employer-sponsored events where alcohol is served.

Instruct employees to be aware of intoxicated coworkers.

Encourage employees to inform management if they see another employee who is intoxicated. You might also consider designating employees as “spotters” so that you can watch out for those colleagues who have had too much alcohol. To avoid claims that employees may not be exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and therefore are entitled to additional compensation, you should ensure not to designate them.

Find out if the employer is covered. An employer should examine their current coverage before purchasing a policy. A comprehensive general liability policy might provide enough coverage.

In-person gatherings may be possible now, but employers must remember that in-person liabilities can often be overlooked. Looking back at pre-pandemic times, it is essential to remember that parties can lead to problems. Employers can minimize these problems by planning well and using Practical Law insights.

Review Practical Law’s Holiday Party Law Liability Prevention Checklist along with our many other resources to help keep employment law issues from ruining the celebrations.

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