Five Effective Ways to Reduce Lawsuits Resulting from Incidents Occurring at Holiday Parties

According to the executive search firm Battalia Winston, 96% of corporations surveyed stated that they would hold holiday parties for their employees this year ― its highest level since 1997. That is up from 91% last year and 74% from two years ago. The survey also showed that 89% of the companies intended to spend the same as last year or more than last year.

For these companies, attorney Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” suggests ways to minimize litigation that may arise from situations brought on during corporate holiday parties.

Mr. Sack’s tips include:

• Distribute a zero tolerance memo for sexual harassment. The document should define what constitutes inappropriate behavior and remind workers that anyone who commits sexual harassment before, during, or after the party will be subject to strict penalties, including possible immediate dismissal.

• Consider making the party an alcohol-free event. If alcohol is served, then the company should hire experienced bartenders only (as opposed to volunteer company employees), who are trained to stop serving liquor to those who have imbibed too much. The company should also consider offering car service where applicable.

• Schedule the party when office hours have concluded to avoid claims of failing to pay wages and overtime for hourly workers who attend the function or are required to attend.

• Consider having the event at a location away from, or not affiliated with, the company. This will reduce the risk of theft of company property, trade secrets, or other valuable assets that can go missing at such events.

• Inform employees to act discreetly when taking pictures. Posting photographs on social networking sites that are provocative or embarrassing can be detrimental to the business. This is the not the kind of publicity any employer desires.

“The holiday season should be a time for celebration,” said Mr. Sack. “However, when rejoicing with colleagues during such festivities, employees should keep these instructions in mind. There is no need to ruin an enjoyable experience with unfortunate incidents that could have been easily avoided.”

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