Holiday party season is now in full swing, and while last year, we doled out survival tips to the party-going employees, this year, we’d like to take a moment to caution the employers.
Employers planning holiday parties for their businesses should prepare to handle overindulgent employees and the ensuing uncomfortable situations. Additional efforts on the part of the employer become even more necessary when little slips in behavior create legal hassles, tarnish professional relations, and in extreme cases, become life threatening.
In a survey conducted by Adecco HR firm, a surprising 11 percent of respondents revealed they lost their job or knew someone who did, due to embarrassing behavior at an office holiday party, while 40 percent of respondents knew someone who behaved badly and 23 percent agreed to receive an official warning for inappropriate behavior at office parties.
Although the law varies from state to state, office-sponsored parties are generally considered a workplace activity, bringing employers in the legal orbit. One such example is the Purton vs. Marriott case. A Marriott employee killed a man in a car crash after he was intoxicated from the alcohol he consumed at his employer’s party. The appellate court held Marriott responsible for the accident, citing that the proximate cause of the accident occurred within the scope of the employer.
Considering that an employer’s liability is not restricted to the office premises, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) called on small businesses to be aware of incidences of harassment and drunk driving following holiday parties. NFIB also advised companies to remind employees that the holiday office party is a work-related activity where everyone is expected to behave appropriately.
Alcohol-related traffic crashes rise during the holidays. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration (NHTSA), in 2012, 37 to 44 percent of traffic accidents during the holiday season involved alcohol.
To stay safe from the legal liabilities that could arise from employee behavior, employers should plan the office holiday party meticulously. Businesses can arrange for cabs to take employees home. A designated driver service app like BeMyDD can even be used to drive employees to their home using their own car, thus saving the headache of retrieving it the next morning.
One of the most recommended ways to avoid workers indulging in excessive drinking or other misconduct is to invite spouses or partners who can help put a cap on unwarranted behavior. Giving out limited drink tickets and fixing the number of hours for which drinks will be served will also help restrict alcohol consumption.