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Tips for Hosting a Safe Office Holiday Party

Office holiday party

‘Tis the season. And with it comes all the fun and celebration of the holidays—not only at home, but also at work. Before your company decks the halls, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself and your employees on company and building safety policies, as well as local and state laws, to keep your office gathering safe and fun.

Decorate with an eye on safety

When decorating your office for the holidays (or any time of year), be careful not to overload electrical sockets with lights and other decorations. And before the last person leaves your office for the day, be sure to turn off or unplug all electric holiday decorations.

You should also be certain that no holiday decorations block entrances, exits, fire escapes, smoke alarms, or sprinkler systems. And because candles are fire hazards, they are typically prohibited in office buildings; keep them at home.

Drink – and serve – responsibly

Did you know that employers can be responsible for injuries to or caused by intoxicated employees leaving work-related holiday parties? Consult your company’s insurance agency and/or attorney before planning an office gathering that will include alcohol. If you do plan to serve alcohol at your office party, consider the following tips:

  • Serve alcohol only if you know everyone at your party is at least 21 years old.
  • Think about holding your party off business premises to shift some responsibility for serving alcohol to liquor licensees and professional bartenders.
  • Offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Stop serving alcohol one to two hours before the end of your party.
  • Remind employees about your company policy on conduct and substance abuse before the party.
  • Make your office holiday party voluntary, and refrain from conducting business during the party (including distribution of holiday bonuses).
  • Hold your company’s holiday gathering after regular business hours.
  • Consider distributing drink tickets to limit the number of beverages each employee consumes.
  • Serve food throughout the event so people don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  • NEVER let an intoxicated employee drive. Make sure all employees have safe transportation home, such as a designated driver, family member, or taxi.

Skip the mistletoe

Although holiday songs will try to convince you otherwise, mistletoe is a potential office pitfall. And mistletoe notwithstanding, harassment suits can stem from events held inside or outside the office and within or after normal business hours. Before your office holiday gathering, take time to check the following off of your to-do list:

  • Remind employees about your harassment policy before your party. If you don’t have a policy, now is the time to establish one.
  • Monitor your employees’ behavior throughout the party to ensure that it falls in line with your company policies, and take immediate action if an employee’s behavior strays beyond acceptable bounds.
  • Take any and all complaints made as a result of a holiday party seriously. Document, investigate and treat the complaint as a workplace incident.

Don’t unintentionally invite the uninvited

If you’re holding your party in your office, be sure to clean up and remove or properly store all food and drink when festivities end to avoid attracting insects and other pests. To keep your guests safe from food-borne illness and allergic reactions, label all food dishes (especially if they contain common allergens, such as nuts or shellfish) and keep warm food warm and cold food cold.

Protect yourself

When contracting with service and venue providers (catering firms, bartenders, facilities, entertainers, etc.) be sure that all are properly licensed by requiring those you hire to produce Certificates of Insurance (COI) with sufficient coverage and limits of liability. And when reviewing contracts, note all “hold harmless” or indemnity agreements that could release the vendor from liability and hold your company responsible for losses from situations beyond your control.

Most landlords are happy to accommodate your in-office holiday parties, provided they follow the law and standard safety protocols. Not sure whether your party plans pass muster? Check with your landlord or building manager to be safe. With proper planning and good common sense, your holiday party can go off without a hitch.

The tips and information provided in this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

If you’re a tenant of The Anderson Group and have questions about your office holiday party, please contact Susan Touhey at 518-458-7726 or stouhey@tagny.com.

 

 

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