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A Better Partnership


Nov 2011
November 11, 2011

What About Those Holiday Parties?

I saw a sign on a web site the other day that said something like this: “We will deck the halls in November. We prefer to celebrate one holiday at a time.” I thought that was kind of funny, particularly in light of the holiday advertisements already on TV in early October. And while it may be too early to put up the holiday decorations, it is not too early to start thinking about that old office tradition, the Holiday Party. And for HR people that means thinking about how you are going to keep the company out of trouble when one of your valued employees has a bit too much of the old holiday cheer.

To Serve or Not to Serve?  That is the Question.

More employers each year are seriously considering not serving alcohol at holiday parties. Instead, they plan a more family-friendly party without alcohol. (Remember, Mad Men is a TV show; not a lifestyle.)

If you are Going to Serve.

Don’t forget you may be held liable if you serve an employee who then gets in a car accident. Increasingly courts are finding social host liability for a host who serves excessive alcohol at a social event. Don’t forget that most likely you are not going to be protected by workers’ compensation if an employee gets hurt. The exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act will not be available if the injury occurs at a social event that was not a required part of work. You also want to be careful who you serve. Remember, it is not legal to serve alcohol to underage employees.

Take Charge.

As you plan this year’s holiday party, take proactive steps to protect yourself:
  • Distribute free taxi passes for rides home that evening and back to work the next day.
  • Reward employees who make plans to ride with a sober designated driver.
  • Limit the number of alcoholic beverages an employee consumes by providing each employee with a set number of beverage tickets and ensure that tickets are the only means of obtaining alcoholic beverages.
  • Designate a member of management who may be called upon to “monitor” employee drinking and assist anyone who has a need for special transportation that evening.

If you have any other questions, give us a call.

Happy Holidays!

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