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Holiday Party Planning: Avoid the lawsuits

The holiday season is upon us, and many families and businesses look forward to hosting enjoyable holiday gatherings. At the same time, gracious party hosts should keep in mind a few cautions to make sure their events are memorable in a positive way.

Party hosts should understand their responsibilities when inviting people into their businesses and homes and serving food and drinks. You as the host may be held accountable for injuries or other situations.

Whether in a business or home setting, party hosts should make sure hazards are minimized. Unfortunately, some holiday party guests could experience injuries such as tripping over a strand of holiday lights, falling on a dance floor or slipping on an icy sidewalk. Potentially much worse, someone consuming too much alcohol could be involved in an auto accident..

While holiday partygoers and hosts alike should act responsibly and know their limits, people need to know that many risks cannot be eliminated entirely. But planning ahead and hosting a safe holiday party is the best defense.

Businesses hosting employee parties should avoid situations that might encourage allegations such as sexual harassment. Whether you like it or not, as an employer, you can be held responsible for any harassment that happens during office holiday parties.

  • First, you might encourage employees to bring their significant others which can make the event more a social event as opposed to wild office party.

  • Second, don’t hang mistletoe.

  • Third, set a “business” or “business casual” dress code to help encourage a more formal gathering.

Holiday parties should be fun, right? Well, yes, but unfortunately, rowdy parties could be considered as a nuisance by local residents. If your party guests or employees are engaging in unpleasant behavior, you as the host could get into trouble when your party is reported to the local authority, and if your business is the party location, your company can get slapped with a public disturbance offense. Businesses might help avoid such outcomes by holding the event at a restaurant or other off-site location.

There are some other actions a company’s management can take to make sure an office party is responsibly hosted:

  • Remind your staff about company policies for the party

  • Letting employees know that the event is voluntary, there is no business purpose for the event and attendance is not mandatory.

  • Hold the event outside normal business hours and refrain from engaging in business discussions during the event.

  • To avoid over-serving guests, ban alcohol – or limit the amount of alcohol that will be served and hire a professional bartender or caterer for on-site events who can identify and cut off service to intoxicated individuals.

  • Arrange accommodations and transportation for your party attendees, if needed.

Businesses should consult with legal counsel for advice on how to minimize the liability risk of holiday party-related claims and allegations. These are just a few helpful suggestions for hosting a worry-free holiday party. After all, it is a season to have fun and enjoy your friends and colleagues.

Please have a safe and enjoyable time this holiday season!

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