Office Holiday Party Do's and Don'ts

Date: November 30, 2023

NFIB Nevada recommends keeping it Claussy and classy this holiday season

It is the most wonderful time of the year once again, and you may be currently planning an office holiday party for your employees. Holiday parties are a great annual tradition in workplaces that allow for employees to socialize, and for business owners to show appreciation for their workers.

Despite the fun and festive nature of holiday parties, there are many legal considerations and general do’s and don’ts employers should follow to ensure a smooth and enjoyable holiday party.

Attendance and Themes – Everyone is on the Nice List!

First and foremost, all employees should be invited and encouraged to attend your holiday party, but attendance should never be mandatory. Furthermore, employees should not receive punishments or be chastised in any way for being absent from the party.

In choosing themes and decorations, be aware that your employees may have diverse beliefs and observe different holidays. The focus of a holiday party should be on providing a fun experience for all employees. If you suspect that religious decorations may be a source of conflict, you may opt to stick with generic holiday symbols like wreaths, lights, snowflakes and candy canes.

Alcohol – Don’t Drive Your Sleigh Tonight!

Alcohol can be a fun added social aspect to any office holiday party but serving it comes with potential issues. Consider the following to mitigate your risks when serving alcohol:

  • Hire a professional catering service or bartender to handle all alcoholic beverages.

Having a bartender gatekeep the alcoholic beverages can help limit the risk of over consumption or an employee overserving themselves.

  • If you are having the party offsite, consider passing out limited (1-2) drink tickets to reduce the number of free drinks your employees can consume.
  • Consider only serving beer and wine and keeping hard liquor off the menu.
  • Make sure to offer non-alcoholic beverages like sodas and non-alcoholic punches.
  • Serve food to make sure no one is drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Consider hosting the party as a luncheon during the week rather than an offsite night gathering on a Friday to reduce the chance of rowdy behavior.
  • Have other activities like gift exchanges or games to subvert attention from solely consuming alcohol.
  • Offer to reimburse employees for Uber rides home or provide transportation through other means.

In some cases, an employer can be held liable when an employee is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), making it imperative that drunk driving is eliminated altogether.

Harassment Policies – Mistletoe is a Mistle-no!

Even if your holiday party is held offsite and not during company hours, an employer may still have to handle harassment claims that arise as a result of employee behavior during the party. Alcohol especially can serve as a catalyst for impaired judgment and harassment at a holiday party. There are some preventative measures you can take to avoid instances of harassment.

  • Do not hang mistletoe!
  • Have a dress code that mirrors what is appropriate for the workplace;
  • Remind everyone of the company’s harassment policies;

You can even take a step further by annually distributing your company’s harassment policy prior to your holiday party, and having each employee sign and acknowledge that they have read it.

  • Encourage department heads and managers to be role models for their subordinates.

Managers and department heads can set positive and professional examples of acceptable conduct during an office holiday party. Above all, remember that holiday parties are an opportunity to show appreciation for employees, and when executed appropriately, can be a delightful tradition. Make sure you tailor your holiday party to your employees and that everyone is able to relax and enjoy themselves appropriately.

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