Office Christmas Party–strategies to avoid the legal fallout

You may be wondering why I selected to write about a movie that is not yet in the theaters.  Truthfully, I do not need to see the movie to write about its relevance to HR issues. In fact, all that’s necessary is to read the title—Office Christmas Party.

Yes, we are in Human Resources. What that means is that when others look forward to getting dressed up and celebrating year-end with their colleagues in a laid-back social setting for which the company often spares no expense, we HR professionals get stomachaches in anticipation of the event. When others spend time at the party kicking back and enjoying a couple of cocktails at the five-hour open bar, we spend our time in a corner covering our eyes or doing damage control. While others need the next day off to nurse a nasty hangover, we HR professionals are “up and at ’em”—again doing damage control. We are the stiffs, the Grinches, the Scrooges. Even during the planning stages, the more fun the party sounds, the louder the screeches in our brain become.

Understand why we are like this. This is not a “chicken or the egg” situation, and we were not born this way. We are this way—complete buzzkills—because NO GOOD COMES FROM A LOT OF ALCOHOL AT WORK-Sdrunk businessman drinking champagne wearing xmas santa hatPONSORED EVENTS. It sounds fun, but we all have to go to work the next day, and what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Ever. In fact, there is a nonstop flight from Vegas over to the water cooler or the Keurig.

Keeping with that mantra, here are some handy tips to keep in mind when planning your next holiday party:

  1. Send an e-mail or memo reminder to employees before the holiday party. While I can see employees’ eyes rolling, it’s always prudent to send out a memo or e-mail to employees before the party reminding them to limit alcohol consumption and to dress appropriately. The reminder should also reiterate that employees are expected to adhere to the company’s antiharassment rules.
  2. Limit alcohol served. As stated above, nothing good comes from too much alcohol at work functions. Therefore, consider having the bar open for a limited period of time at the beginning of the event as opposed to the entire party. Additionally, consider handing out a limited number of drink tickets per guest.
  3. Make arrangements with a local taxi company for return rides. To reduce risks associated with driving under the influence, the company should make arrangements with a local taxi company to provide employees who have consumed too much alcohol with return rides home. This will avoid giving employees control over the decision at a time when they are tired and unwilling to make their own arrangements.

Consider other alternatives to the “all-out” holiday party—possibly a nice luncheon during the workday without alcohol, a family-friendly weekend afternoon gathering, or some sort of group activity.

In sum, I don’t feel the need to see the movie; just reading the title sends my blood pressure rising.

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