How to lawsuit-proof your holiday office party

9 Ways To Avoid Holiday Party Pitfalls (and Liability)
By Matt Durham
Stoel Rives LLP,
Oregon Law Firm

According to recent poll by the Society of Human Managers (SHRM), fewer employers are foregoing holiday parties this year than in 2009. Although the economy continues to sputter, many employers likely see the traditional holiday party as a relatively inexpensive way of boosting morale and creating good will among their employees.

Some employers approach party planning with trepidation, fearful that too much holiday cheer will lead to problems. Here are some tips for planning a successful employer-sponsored event while avoiding some common holiday party pitfalls:

• Remind employees, and especially supervisors, that the holiday party is a work event, and policies regarding appropriate workplace conduct are in effect
• Enlist supervisors in maintaining appropriate conduct standards
• Recognize diversity by celebrating the season or the end of the year, without reference to specific holidays or religious traditions
• Choose a venue at which all employees will be comfortable (i.e., probably not the sports bar with the skimpy server outfits), and that will be accessible to employees with disabilities
• nvite spouse or partners to attend
• If alcohol will be served, limit its consumption through tickets or a cash bar and have a third party, not employees or supervisors, serve the drinks
• Make arrangements for taxi service to get impaired employees home and be proactive in assessing those who should not drive
• Clearly conclude the party when it is over to avoid lingering or post-party activities where control will be difficult
• If complaints about conduct at the party surface, address them promptly
With a little planning, the workplace holiday party can be a success. Even HR department will be able to relax and have a good time!

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