The Holidays are upon us, and you know what that means. Crowded malls and stores, cyber shopping, big sales, high credit card bills on the way, and office parties. It is estimated that close to 80% of businesses will have a Holiday Celebration Party this year. And why not! Office parties can increase morale and build team spirit. Employees are out of the office with an opportunity to talk about non-work topics. Some companies invite spouses and guests too in order to get to know their staff better. But is there a dark side to parties?
The big topic right now is sexual harassment. My first advice is don’t invite Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey! Most office parties serve alcohol, and too much alcohol can lead to unwanted sexual advancement or illegal employee conduct. Alcohol has the effect of removing inhibitions, giving some people more courage, or making people forget about their office rules. Nowadays, most everyone has a cell phone and they are ready to take pictures or videos and post them to social media for the world to see. Alcohol and cell phones can be a recipe for company disaster or employee embarrassment. What can you do as an employer? Many invite spouses to keep the party family oriented. Remind employees before the party that the company does not condone sexual harassment or illegal conduct and give them a few examples.
Physical confrontations can be another problem at Holiday Time. Some companies give bonuses at year end and maybe the employees are not happy with what they got, or got nothing. Employee reviews may not go well for some staff too. And clashing religions or non-believers can create a problem. Again, alcohol removes inhibitions and some people even grow “beer muscles”. While Holiday time is fun and festive, for some people it is a depressing time of year. Watch out for confrontations. Some companies will hire security to make sure fun is the focal point of the party.
One other issue at Holiday Party time is the mixing of alcohol and driving. There are court rulings that have allowed injured parties to go after the sponsoring company of a holiday party where an attendee got drunk and caused a vehicle accident and injuries or even death. As a company, you can reduce this risk by using drink tickets to limit over-imbibing. You can close the bar an hour or two before the party ends, and you can hire professional bartenders who can recognize when someone has had enough and who will check IDs to ensure everyone is 21 years old or more. The company could provide taxis or designated drivers for those deemed to have over done it.
Can insurance help in all this? It sure can if you have the proper coverage and policies in place. Please feel free to contact us and ensure that your company is protected. And most importantly, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Festivus…..