As the festive season gets underway, many employers are in the process of planning their office holiday parties.  While it is someone else’s job to make sure there is enough eggnog, pick the band and make the call as to whether or not spouses should be invited,  it is our job to remind you to take steps to ensure that the Company will be in position to have a holiday party for years to come.

Make your Company’s new years resolution not to be involved in a multi-million dollar social host liability law suit.

The decisions you make around serving alcohol are critical in decreasing the chances of your holiday party finding its way onto the front page or into the court house. We recommend that our clients and other friends take the following steps:

  • Monitor your employees by having someone serve the alcohol, preferably someone who has been trained to recognize the signs of intoxication;
  • Discourage self-serve bars;
  • Do not serve alcohol to guests that are becoming or are already intoxicated;
  • Limit the number of drinks, either served at a time or per person;
  • Do not serve strong drinks such as double shots or strong beer;
  • Stop serving alcohol before the end of the party;
  • Do not serve alcohol to under aged employees or guests;
  • Prohibit any drinking games or contests;
  • Make sure food and water are available;
  • Provide taxi chits or alternative transportation to employees, and make sure the employees are aware of these accommodations;
  • Take active steps to prevent an intoxicated employee from driving, even if this amounts to calling their spouse or the police. While this may seem like a drastic measure, it could potentially save your Company from liability, and more importantly save someone’s life;
  • Hold your event at a restaurant, even if you are hosting the event and paying for the alcohol, because the provider in such a situation would be considered to be the restaurant, not your Company;
  • If you are in charge, drink moderately so that you may supervise and/or have non-drinkers supervise;
  • Be proactive and send out an “alcohol policy” to employees in preparation for the event; and
  • Learn from the past: If you have had problems in the past, take proactive steps to avoid similar problems.

While you can never fully account for all of the potential risks, a little bit of planning and preparation can ensure that everyone has a good time and goes home safely. Maybe most importantly for you, you won’t have to call us in the new year to “talk about something that happened” at your Holiday Party.