Discrimination is probably the biggest concern for an employer planning a holiday party and it’s that time of year again. Employees also need to be mindful of company policies. What do employers and employees need to be watchful for? This is an important question to ask as holiday parties can have unanticipated legal implications and bring with them the potential opportunity to create employer legal liability.

Not only can the fun and festivities of a company Christmas party lead to employer liability resulting from alcohol related accidents or injuries, but the relaxed environment and the introduction of alcohol can also lead to allegations of sexual harassment.

Who does it apply to: It applies to all employers and employees

What are the legal issues: Holiday parties potentially implicate a variety of employment laws: Discrimination, Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), Workers’ Compensation, and liability associated with providing alcohol.

Here are a few ways to handle certain situations that can come about

  • Don’t make attendance to a company holiday event a requirement
    • Not all employees practice the same religion and holidays.
  • Discourage overindulgence of alcohol
    • Employer should plan effectively so that alcohol is used responsibly. By distributing drink tickets, you can limit the amount of alcohol consumed. Employees should be reminded by memos and pre-party meetings, that policies directed at prohibiting harassment (sexual and otherwise) continue to apply at all company-sponsored events.
  • Invite spouses
    • Sexual harassment will less likely occur if couples attend the gathering together.
  • Arrange alternative transportation
    • There may be some that need assistance in getting home.
  • Investigate Complaints
    • Investigate all complains that are received from employees relating to the workplace. Off-site parties taking place after work hours are included.

Company hosted holiday parties are intended to be fun, relaxing and rewarding occasions for workers and their families. Careful planning and awareness of company policy are key to ensuring a great time for all.