“Company Parties Gone Wild” may make for entertaining TV, but it doesn’t make for good business. A conservative business luncheon in a convention hall, however … well … yawn. If you are planning a company holiday party, you want all the excitement of your guests being front row at their favorite musical concert and none of the associated risks. Though the following tips are not legal advice, they do offer a few ways you can turn up your party and dial down the chance you will pay for it later.
Celebrate diversity among people, not particular holidays
Stay neutral concerning specific religious celebrations. If you only cover part of them, you risk offending someone who is left out. If you try to cover all of them, you may risk offending everyone. The point of your party is not to delicately maneuver through the evening hoping no one is offended — stressful party. The point of your party is to celebrate the people that are part of your company and provide them with a fun environment to interact. Every day, you balance the diversity in your work culture. For your company holiday party, change the focus from work to play, but don’t change your sensitivity to the eclectic group of people that make up your work environment.
Make something other than alcohol your primary focus for entertaining your guests
People can have fun without drinking — really. Often party planners fret that what they have planned will not keep their guests engaged, so they rely on the bar hoping peoplewill drink the boredom away, loosen their inhibitions and entertain themselves. Often, however, “stupid happens” when people drink too much, and the company suffers the consequences. Not serving alcohol at your party is your safest bet, but if you must serve alcohol, take the proper precautions. Some of these precautions include ensuring that the number of drinks per guest is restricted; properly communicating in advance to your employees the consequences — often termination — of actions such as minors drinking and serving alcohol to minors; hiring a professional bartender; having someone monitor the crowd to prevent potentially risky behavior from escalating into injury, harassment or other problems; and providing transportation home for those who have been drinking.
If you have a company attorney, you will likely want to consult him or her on what measures need to be in place to minimize your liability before deciding to serve alcohol to your guests. Alternatively, you could focus your energy on planning a party that people genuinely enjoy without alcohol.
Make your party voluntary
A “mandatory party” is oxymoronic — like cruel kindness, awfully pretty or Superbowl Champions Buffalo Bills. You just don’t want to force people to be with you. Plus, when it comes to protecting yourself legally, requiring employees to be at your holiday party could lead to your paying overtime, benefits and being carefully watched under the employment law microscope. Offer something people voluntarily want to be a part of. When you do, everyone wins — except maybe the Buffalo Bills.
Invite the Right People
Employees are on the list, but what about contractors and guests? New considerations arise when you extend your guest list, so be sure to think carefully about the advantages and risks of each addition. With contractors, attendance at a party may blur the lines between company and contractor and may give the appearance of an employer-employee relationship. Underage guests of underage employees might introduce unanticipated problems such as an employee serving alcohol to a minor. Consider your guest list from the perspective of enhancing the party and from the perspective of avoiding legal repercussions.
Choose your vendors carefully
Vendors can either mitigate your worries or amplify your headaches. The right event planner, for example, can make sure your party rocks, take care of every detail, ensure that you enjoy the planning and save you from having to worry about an aftermath. The wrong event planner could become your greatest liability.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be in a much better position to “get your party on,” celebrate those who make your company what it is, and avoid waking to legal hangovers next year. Here’s to you, your company and the upcoming holidays!
You can consult these references for more information and additional perspectives related to your company holiday party and legality: