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Christmas Parties and HR Issues

Tips to Avoid HR Issues at Your Company Christmas Party

It’s Christmas time! A time to let loose, grab a drink, have a few laughs with your team. Company Christmas parties present a myriad of liability issues for businesses, and with all the media outrage about sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s no wonder that there are more questions than ever about company parties this year. Should you serve alcohol? Invite spouses? Give that crazy gag gift? More and more companies are opting to do away with the open bar, limit the party hoopla, or even cancel altogether for fear of liability issues that could arise.

However, Christmas parties are also a wonderful opportunity to boost employee morale, build stronger (appropriate) relationships with colleagues, and to simply celebrate the season outside the 9 to 5 work environment. As you plan this year, here are a few tips to limit your liabilities while enjoying the time with your team:

  • Consider limiting drinks by handing out drink tickets or making it a cash bar. Alternatively, by providing a limited bar menu (i.e. no shots) you can reduce the flow of alcohol.
  • Serve fingers food to reduce the effects of alcohol. To make this even more effective, serve food for an hour or so prior to opening the bar.
  • Plan activities to break up the party. By planning a gift exchange, entertainment, or game, you can prevent employees from consuming one drink after another.
  • Make arrangements to provide a sober ride to those who have too much. Hire a car service or consider providing discounts for ride share programs such as Uber or Lyft. Are your parties notorious for getting out of control in the past? Consider collecting everyone’s keys along with their coats at the door.
  • Shut down the bar one hour before the party ends and consider limiting the party to 3-4 hours instead of partying late into the night.
  • Invite significant others! What better way to prevent inappropriate actions by having a partner there ready to give someone the side eye?
  • Do not require attendance. Keep in mind that if you require attendance you are subject to wage and hour laws regarding employee time spent at the party.
  • Set the tone. Convey your expectations through your invitation or company memo before the party begins. Just because this is a social gathering does not mean that it isn’t a “work function.” By providing a casual refresher on dress codes and harassment policies, you let your employees know that appropriate behavior is still expected – even if they aren’t in the office.
  • Let’s all agree that mistletoe is not invited to the party.

Keeping everyone safe and providing a festive event where everyone can have a wonderful time is the ultimate goal. Your employees work hard during the year, it’s time to reward them for a job well done with some free food and drink and general merriment. Questions? Feel free to contact our team here at Exodus HR by sending us a message or giving us a quick call.

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