December is the month for office holiday parties, which are meant as a time to unwind and have fun with coworkers. However, more often than not, these events turn into alcohol-fueled, frat-style parties rife with sexual tension and next-day regrets. Sometimes, office holiday parties result in more than awkward Mondays. If not handled properly, they can end in terminations and lawsuits.
Yuki Noguchi, Correspondent for NPR, spoke with attorneys who handle the aftermath of office parties gone awry. Kate Bischoff, one such attorney, told Noguchi that using vouchers to allocate alcohol can often limit intake and prevent some liability; however, it does not guarantee that employees will comply.
Amy Maingault, director at the Society for Human Resource Management, agrees that alcohol tends to create legal liabilities for employers as it impairs judgement. Inebriated employees may act on physical attractions, racial biases, or otherwise tempered feelings or characteristics. “If the employer is serving alcohol, and they’re the people paying for the alcohol, they do incur some liability if that person causes injury to themselves or to others driving home after the party,” according to Maingault.
HR Resource offers a live webinar which addresses ways to avoid legal issues during the office holiday party season. On December 12, the webinar entitled “Planning Your Employee Party: Keys to a Celebration Without Litigation” will be held at 1:00 pm ET and conclude at 2:30 pm ET. The webcast provides credits for various programs, which are sponsored by Lorman Education.
Those attending will learn to recognize potential sources of liability and proactively address them through effective company policies. Additionally, the webinar will address whether or not to allow alcohol at holiday parties, improper behaviors like harassment, and strategies for appropriately handling religious diversity. The agenda will touch upon the Americans with Disabilities Act, sexual harassment, and substance abuse prevention policies. The speaker will also touch upon potential issues such as drunk driving, negligence of staff, and addressing employee concerns.
The webinar speaker will be Matthew F. Nieman, Shareholder in Jackson Lewis P.C.’s Washington, D.C.,Region office. Nieman represents employers in labor and employment law cases, including discrimination, wage and hour, questions related to the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”), and workplace drug-testing issues.
Learn how to prevent lawsuits over misconduct during this holiday season. With the right planning and policies, the office holiday party will be enjoyable and entertaining, as it was intended to be.