Let’s Party! How to Celebrate the Holidays Merrily — Litigation-Free

It’s that time – the holidays are here! Many companies traditionally sponsor a party to celebrate. Time to review a few guidelines to insure you don’t wind up entangled in nasty personnel situations, or worse yet, in litigation.


Parties are meant to be festive, company-wide celebrations. Unfortunately, when the environment is relaxed, some people relax their behavior too much. This lack of restraint can result in anything from inappropriate comments and jokes to verbal abuse, sexual harassment, to sometimes even brawls. Alcohol intensifies loosening of inhibitions and lack of judgment. If you must serve alcohol, have some guidelines in place:

• Invite your employee and a “guest.” Encourage spouses, significant others and friends to attend. Their presence can put a damper on inappropriate behavior, plus they can assist with a safe return home if necessary.

• Send a company-wide memo to all staff prior to the party encouraging a good time. Remind them of the conduct code, including disciplinary action for violations. Also via email or paper, tell all supervisors and managers not to attend any “post-parties” to avoid the appearance of company approval.

• Prior to the party, decide how to deal with inappropriate behavior. Be sure all members of your management staff receives written (email or paper) instructions on their role. Meet with supervisors and managers; ask them to notify a designee if a situation is escalating. Determine possible responses in advance.

• Under NO circumstances have an “Open Bar,” where people can drink as much as they want. Do you really want to attend a funeral, especially during the holidays?

• If you are paying, arrange a two drink ticket system (maximum three), preferably limited to beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

• If you are not paying, it’s still preferable to limit cash sales to beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

• If you can, provide free non-alcoholic beverages. Bottled water, iced tea, soda and coffee are worth the money if they stop an employee from getting tipsy and indulging in inappropriate behavior. This will cost a lot less than the time and effort to fix the results of such behavior, not to mention possible legal settlements.

• Do not staff the bar with your own employees. If bartenders don’t come with the venue, hire professionals. Instruct them to report anyone they think has had too much to drink and clearly define to whom they report. Remind them to “card” anyone they feel might not be 21 years old.

• Serve plenty of food and make it more substantial than chips and nuts.

• Schedule “last call for alcohol” an hour prior to the end of the party! Serve only non-alcoholic beverages until the party is over.

• Arrange for taxi service at no cost to any employee who needs a ride home.

Most importantly, DON’T hang that mistletoe! – Unless you would like to be kissing your last dollar good-bye!

Cally Graves is an Industry Liaison between business, workforce, and education working with Workforce Solutions. She has 35 years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers in Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast region.



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