As we enter the holiday season, many New York and New Jersey businesses will be holding holiday office-sponsored parties.
A recent survey by executive search firm Battalia Wilson found that 91 percent of the companies polled will have parties this year, a significant increase from last year’s low of just 74 percent.
While this may be “the season to be jolly,” being jolly can sometimes turn into folly, particularly if you plan to serve alcohol. With all business risks, it is important that you are prepared to mitigate the risks that you may encounter.
Below are a few considerations and suggestions:
- Verify insurance coverage: If you are hosting the event on your premises and plan to serve alcohol, research the availability of dram shop insurance or liquor law liability insurance to cover the event. Also, if you hire caterers, servers, bartenders or anyone else to provide and serve drinks, make sure they carry liability insurance that would cover any potential liability exposure for your business.
- Hold the party in a licensed establishment: To reduce the risks to your company, it is advisable to have the celebration at a restaurant, bar, or other establishment whose liability insurance would likely cover the event. In addition, trained bartenders and wait staff are often better equipped to limit excessive alcohol consumption.
- Reduce alcohol risks: Most companies will serve alcohol at their holiday parties. To reduce the risks that employees have too much holiday “cheer,” businesses may want to consider holding the event during the day, limiting employees to certain number of drink tickets, serving ample amounts of food, and providing a safe way home.
- Deter bad behavior: When they are outside of the office environment, employees may feel more comfortable engaging in bad behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment. Therefore, it is important that employee handbooks or other documents make it clear that policies extend to social functions. Furthermore, office parties may be one of the biggest causes of sexual harassment complaints. Do you have Employment Practice Liability Insurance?
- Avoid wage and hours concerns: To avoid wage and hours concerns for employees who are not exempt from overtime, businesses should hold holiday parties outside of work hours and stress that attendance is completely voluntary.
While we do not want to be the dark cloud over your holiday cheer, these warnings should be heeded.