Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C.

Making the holiday party safe for all

One longstanding tradition for many businesses is the holiday party. Some are large events involving staff and clients. Others are smaller staff-only affairs that are more like a cocktail party. Whatever the format, an unfortunate part of the tradition may be binge drinking by staff and management, which can lead to awkward moments or more serious legal issues.

The rise of the #MeToo movement has forced some employers to revise their guidelines governing appropriate behavior in the workplace. These updates should also carry over to the holiday party, which is a work-sanctioned event in which employers should be concerned about intoxicated employees injuring themselves, fellow workers or others; they might wonder if the party is worth that risk. Discontinuing the party may lead to fall in morale, particularly during what may be a busy time of year. Holding the party as a "dry" event is an option, but some may feel that this implies that they cannot be trusted to behave when alcohol is served. Many smart employers are already aware of these safety concerns and liability issues and are reevaluating their options.

Sensible options

There a number of ways that employers here in Southeastern Pennsylvania can put together events that are safer and more enjoyable for all. These include:

  • Use drink tickets: Instead of counting on the bartender to monitor the alcohol intake of participants, issuing tickets limits the number of free drinks, which may cut down on consumption of alcohol. Hosts may also want to limit what the tickets can be used for.
  • Serve only beer and wine: Following up on the previous point, low alcohol options like beer and wine will lower the chances of intoxication.
  • Have an activity or entertainment: Rather than making alcohol the entertainment, provide something else for folks to do such as an arcade, a bowling alley, or hire a comedian or hypnotist.
  • Set an early start time: Start after work or even late in the workday and have it conclude by early evening.
  • Provide non-alcoholic drinks and food: This is common sense to many, but managers and owners may not be skilled events planners.

It is a new era

It may even be smart to include some expectations about code of conduct on the invitation. While some employees may scoff at the reminder, attempting to ensure a safe and enjoyable event for all employees is worth whatever criticism might be directed towards management.

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