Minimize Your Risk of Liability: Tips for Handling Alcohol at Holiday Parties

mistletoeWe often look forward to holiday parties each year with our co-workers. Sometimes too much holiday cheer can result in trouble for an employer. Unfortunately for employers, sexual harassment allegations, assault complaints and other related claims stemming from the annual holiday party have become more and more prevalent over the years. Holiday parties create an increased risk of liability for the employers. The safest recommendation is, of course, to skip the alcohol altogether. Very few complaints stem from holiday parties that did not involve the consumption of alcohol.

However, if you choose to permit alcohol to be served (in strict moderation) at a company sponsored event, as most employers do, here are a few basic steps to reduce the risk of liability, when alcohol is involved:

  • Retain outside service providers to handle all alcohol and bartending duties.
  • Instruct bartenders to cut off service to employees who appear to be intoxicated.
  • If the holiday party is at a restaurant or bar that is open to the public, provide employees with bracelets or stamps so that bartenders can identify and distinguish your employees from other guests.
  • Consider serving only beer and wine at the party, as avoiding the service of spirits that tend to intoxicate people more rapidly can also minimize the possibility of employees acting in ways that they might wrongly believe are “excusable” after a few drinks.
  • If serving spirits, request that the bartender prepare low-alcohol mixed drinks.
  • Consider having a cash bar or limiting the number of free drinks per person.
  • Consider distributing drink tickets to limit alcohol consumption.
  • Offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks.
  • As is done at many professional sports venues and other venues, stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party is scheduled to end.
  • Never allow a company supervisor or manager to serve drinks to other employees.

If you need assistance, Dube Consulting is here to help!  Enjoy your holidays one and all.

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