Holiday Parties – Are you preparing for the worst?


Sound HR advice for Employers and Employees

Is it possible to host a great party and at the same time limit your company’s liability exposure?  I believe there still is a place for company holiday parties that boost morale and show appreciation to employees.  The holiday party; however can also be a human resource nightmare.  Below are a few things to consider while ensuring your holiday party goes well.


Limit alcohol consumptions.  Ok- so no one wants to be a party pooper but protecting your company or your career should be a priority over getting hammered.  Employers should hire professional bartenders who are trained to limit harm and liability.  Employees should limit their consumption.  Getting drunk and making a fool of yourself could be something that ends or damages your career.  I can promise you, you will get noticed and not in a good way.

Don’t drink and drive. Even though your company party may not occur during working hours or at your workplace, liability is still there.  A Marriott employee who left the company party and struck another vehicle and killed the driver was sentenced to six years in prison. The deceased’s family sued Marriott, and the courts ruled that an employer may be found liable for its employee’s offences as long as the proximate cause of the injury (here, alcohol consumption) occurred within the scope of employment.  Since the company party was an annual event, the court considered it within the scope of employment.  It was irrelevant that the employee’s negligent was the cause of the death—the worker’s intoxication.  So caution employers and arrange transportation options for your employees when serving alcohol.  As such, employees should make plans ahead for a designated driver or someone to pick them up at the party and drive them home.

The rules still apply.  Forget the mistletoe- dare I say more.  Did you know that thirty-six percent of U.S. employers report worker misconduct at holiday parties, wrote Albert Brannen, an attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP, in the firm’s November 2013 Labor Letter. The misconduct includes: excessive drinking, sexual advances, off-color jokes, vulgar language, arguments and fistfights.  Therefore it is imperative to remind employees that the company rules still apply- this means appropriate dress and appropriate conduct.

Keep it upbeat.  And lastly, keep it light and have fun.  You can use this opportunity to show your appreciation and reflect on the success and contributions of your employees.   This is not the time for anyone to talk shop that includes negative subjects such as layoffs, pay freezes or slow sales.

How do you plan to host a great holiday party while protecting your company from the liabilities that exist?  

Scholley Bubenik is president of Austin based company, Premier HR Solutions.  For more information on the company’s human resource consulting services, visit  or contact Scholley at