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Everybody’s heard the office party horror stories—some merrymakers get drunk, unfortunate comments are made, even more unfortunate outfits are worn, and sometimes somebody even gets hurt. It’s enough to make the human resources department want to retreat to the North Pole until mid-January.
Solutions to party woes do exist, however, and even if the party already has been planned, it’s not too late to make a few tweaks designed to ward off trouble.
Alcohol or no alcohol?
Deciding how or whether to serve alcohol is a vital part of planning. Hire a professional bartender and giving him or her the authority to decide when someone needs to be cut off.
Limiting alcohol choices to beer and wine rather than serving hard liquor may be advisable. Serving a meal or making plenty of other food available also helps. We also suggests providing partygoers with a limited number of drink tickets to discourage overindulging.
Providing transportation for anyone who has had too much to drink is another good idea, either in the form of free cab rides or conscientious managers who volunteer to drive an intoxicated employee home.
Keeping bad behavior at bay
Sexual harassment is another concern in party planning. The relaxed setting of a party makes employees more likely to become more friendly and touchy with each other, especially when the alcohol is flowing freely.
Just one incidence of inappropriate touching can spark a lawsuit if it’s sufficiently serious, the article states. What may appear to be harmless touching, flirting, or joking could lead to a harassment claim. Sexual harassment can be committed by either women or men toward others of the opposite or same sex.
Conduct a prompt investigation if someone makes a complaint of inappropriate behavior. You may be able to limit your liability if, among other things, you take prompt and reasonable care to prevent and correct any sexual harassment.
Employees often think they can say or do things at a holiday party that they would never do during regular work activities. Remember, even though your party may take place after work hours and off work premises, it most likely would still be considered a work-related event for legal purposes (meaning employer liability for sexual harassment).
Décor and dress
Christmas inspires a variety of ways to deck the halls, but mistletoe has no place in the decorating scheme, since kissing under the mistletoe is another invitation for a sexual harassment claim.
Be sensitive to religious differences when planning decorations. A Christmas tree or Christmas decorations may make employees of certain religions feel excluded. You may certainly allow holiday decorations in the office and at the holiday party, but it must not look like you’re favoring one religion over another.
Dress codes and other employee conduct policies apply to out-of-office holiday events, and it’s a good idea to review rules with employees before the party by sending an email or memo summarizing relevant policies.
To prevent employees from showing up in inappropriate attire, hold the party right after business hours. That may encourage them to come in their ordinary work attire, which also provides a reminder that their conduct at the party reflects on their professional lives.