Everybody loves a good holiday party. And the office holiday party is no different. It is a chance for co-workers to relax with one another and for employers to show their appreciation for their employees’ hard work all year long. But there are perils involved and some things you, as an employer, can do to avoid paying twice for that party:
1. Do not make the party mandatory. Mandatory work events implicate workers’ compensation and other liability issues.
2. If you serve alcohol, limit consumption by issuing drink tickets. Also, hire a professional bartender who knows how to mix drinks properly and how to cut someone off if they have had too much.
3. Provide designated drivers or free taxi rides home for party-goers who overdo it. In some cities there are services that will drive the party-goers’ car home, with a trailing car and driver, so the party-goer does not have to retrieve their car in the morning.
4. Remind employees that company anti-harassment policies remain in effect at the party. Alcohol consumption combined with the relaxed atmosphere of the office party may cause some to forget that the party is still a work-related event. Consider having a number of people designated to keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior and to put a stop to it if it starts. You may want to invite spouses – it may help discourage misbehavior.
While the server of alcohol is not liable under Virginia law for injuries or damage caused by an inebriated partier, office parties do have the added layer of the employer-employee relationship to complicate things. Don’t let your party get out of hand.