“Brace Yourselves… Holiday Parties Are Coming.” Tips for Avoiding Legal Issues Stemming from Company Holiday Parties
- Diversity & Inclusiveness (Happy Festivus, Happy Christmahanakwanzika, or… Happy Holidays?)
- Alcohol Consumption and Service (Please Drink Responsibly… or Not At All.)
- Attendance (Your Attendance is Strongly Encouraged… Completely Optional)
- Insurance (You Can Never Have Too Much
Fruit Cake… Insurance)
- Be Creative and Have Fun!
Happy Festivus, Happy Christmahanakwanzika, or… Happy Holidays?
Please Drink Responsibly… or Not At All.
Clearly Communicate Employee Expectations and Appropriate Decorum
Overview of Florida’s Dram Shop Laws, Social Host Liability, and Indemnification of Vendors
A Few Quick Tips for Alcohol Service at Company Parties…
- Provide Employees With a Ride and Parking – Consider providing Uber, Lyft, Taxi, or Car Services from your event to ensure they are safe. You can purchase promo codes through ride-sharing services and even negotiate a special rate with taxi companies and car services. If you do this, your employees will know that you care about their safety.
- Drink Tickets and Service Limits – Setup a drink voucher system to limit the alcohol consumption to a reasonable level. To make it fun, have special “themed” drinks or cocktails setup at various stations. You should have a clear time where alcohol service is cut-off, then start serving alternative beverages such as coffee, tea, or even hot cocoa (who doesn’t love hot cocoa?!).
- Use a Professional – Do not have a self-service system for employees to get their own drinks. Also, you should not allow employees to serve alcohol to other employees. Hire a professional catering service with appropriate licensing, permits, and training.
- Follow the Leaders – If you and your leadership team are excessively drinking, good luck making sure your employees stay responsible. You should lead by example.
- Family Friendly – Depending on your team, and you know them best, you might decide to not have alcohol at all, or to limit alcoholic beverages to beer and wine. I know that can be easier said than done. However, it’s easier to justify and implement if you make the holiday party a family-friendly function. This also makes it easier for more of your employees to attend if they can bring their children and don’t have to find childcare. As discussed above, statistics show that you won’t be in the minority. A growing number of companies are eliminating alcohol from their holiday parties.
Your Attendance is
Strongly Encouraged… Completely Optional
You Can Never Have Too Much
Fruit Cake… Insurance
If you choose to have your event at a special venue, ensure that the premises’ owner and/or operator have adequate insurance and that all of your vendors (e.g. caterers, bar staff, entertainment, etc.), especially those serving alcohol, are also insured and have up-to-date licensing and permits to perform their duties (i.e. food services, liquor/alcohol licensing, etc.). Most event coordinators or venue operators will (or should) make this a requirement for their subcontractors. However, it never hurts to ask and it shows that you are paying attention to the details. At the end of the day, you do not want your company to be the deepest available pockets if something happens. Your lawyer can assist you in engaging your vendors and venues.
Lastly, do a site inspection of the facilities in the weeks before your holiday party to make sure they are safe and have all necessary accessibility and access requirements under local, state, and Federal laws (e.g. American’s with Disabilities Act – ADA). Once again, you want to ensure safety and accessibility so that everyone can enjoy the party.
Be Creative and Have Fun!
- Give Back – Consider having a charitable element to your holiday party. My good friends, Christina Anton Garcia and John Castro of Anton Castro Law in Tampa do this wonderfully by making their holiday party a donation drop off for Toys-for-Tots! You should see the mountain of toys that they are able to donate to children in need.
- Employee Entertainment – You likely have some talented employees in your company (they could be hiding). Forming a “company band” to play holiday songs and other popular songs, is a great way to build teamwork and feature your own “rock stars”. Give your employees something to remember and grab the mic and serenade them yourself. However, you might end up on Youtube… like this boss. PLEASE do not sing the song that he chose.
- Cooking Competition – Hire a locally-recognized chef to have a cooking class and teach your team how to make various holiday dishes. You can even have a “Top Chef” competition between various departments and teams. This can be a great team building activity and you give your team members something that they can share with their friends and family throughout the holiday season–delicious dishes!
A Few Blogs & Articles on Holiday Parties:
- Top 25 Office Holiday Party Ideas From the Pros – FitSmallBusiness
- 9 Corporate Holiday Party Ideas Your Employees Will Be Talking About for Weeks – INC.
- 15 Office Holiday Party Ideas for Teams of Every Size (and Budget) – Justworks, Inc.
How Can CERV LAW Help You?
If you have specific questions about the issues raised above or if I can be of assistance to you or your company in any other matter, feel free to contact me, Chris Cervellera of CERV LAW, PLLC in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Note: This article should not be construed or interpreted as legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship.