Nora T. Akins

It is the time of year to thank your employees for their effort with holiday cheer. Before you pop open the champagne, review your social host liability coverage in your general liability policy.

Social Host Liability expands the legal responsibility for the consumption of alcohol beyond the person who consumes it to those who furnish it. An intoxicated employee who injures someone is still liable and may share that liability with his or her employer who hosted the event. Limit your host liability by establishing limits upfront.

Employers cannot rely on Worker's Compensation coverage for a party-injury. The Act protects work-related injuries, not injuries related to social or recreational activities.

Limit alcohol consumption. Having an open bar is asking for trouble. Consider giving out drink tickets; two is standard. Limit the number of hours the bar is open. Have a variety of interesting non-alcoholic beverages, like holiday punch along with sodas, coffee and water.

Don't pour. Hire professional bartenders to serve alcohol and make it clear that they are not to over-serve. Inform them if there are any underage employees and encourage them to card anyone else who appears to be underage.

Food, food, food. Consider having appetizers circulate at the start of the event to make sure guests have easier access to food than the beverages. Provide a late night snack buffet toward the end of the event.

Not just food and drink. The party should include entertainment, speeches, dancing, and/or games.

Managers are working. Management staff is to mingle with employees and be aware of anyone who may be overindulging. Have them watch for horseplay, property damage, and sexual harassment. Encourage them to work together and with security, if needed.

Free rides. If employees have already established designated drivers, use them but do not rely on them. Use professional drivers, a shuttle service or cabs. Ensure the employee gets in the cab, by walking him or her out and paying for the ride, rather than handing the employee cab cash.

It's over when it's over. Schedule an end time for the party and discourage after-parties.

With all these buzzkills in place, the party can still be fun and safe. Cheers!

More Party Tips:

n Recognize 77% of the population is Christian. Be aware some of your employees may not appreciate secular party themes.

n Attendance is voluntary. Case laws exist with the employer losing when party attendance is required.

n Protected concerted activity includes discussing wages. Parties are a great time to boast about your year-end raise. Consider your timing.

n Protected activity also includes selfies and photos. Accept your party pix will be on Facebook.

Nora T. Akins, of Strategic Management focuses on employer compliance and employee performance by providing management training and refining human resource systems; contact her at 873-1735 or nora@managepeopleright.com.

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