Preventing a Holiday Party Lawsuit: 5 keys

The holidays are fast approaching, and many Pennsylvania small businesses are starting to plan for company parties. Others may be ready to celebrate a successful quarter or landing a new client — all good reasons to celebrate.

But in today’s world, even a celebration or holiday party designed to boost morale and thank employees for their hard work has the potential to prompt a lawsuit.

Here are five keys to hosting a successful celebration without it leading to a court date.

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1. Figure out how you’re going to handle booze

At some employers, the idea of alcohol at a company party is unthinkable. Others wouldn’t even consider it a party without some libations. It all depends on a company’s industry and culture.

Either way, it makes sense to establish a clear policy regarding alcohol and make sure employees understand it before the festivities get underway. A few guidelines:

If you want to have alcohol at the party, it’s probably best to hold it at a bar or a hotel — not your office — to limit liability.

Close the bar a few hours before the party ends or issue drink tickets to limit how much people can consume.

Assign people to keep an eye on the party to make sure no one’s getting out of control. This can be co-workers or managers or external people — caterers, bartenders, etc.


2. Avoid religious references

Don’t call it a Christmas or Hanukkah party. Instead, it’s a “holiday party” or “end of the year bash.”

This covers your bases legally, but it also makes for a more inclusive event where all of your workers will feel welcome.


3. Avoid racy gifts or party elements

Too many parties have wound up being litigated thanks to a misplaced sprig of mistletoe or a karaoke session that got a little too racy.

Establish what will — and won’t — be tolerated at the party ahead of time and make sure workers are aware of the ground rules you set.

4. Make attendance voluntary

Perhaps the best way to prevent a lawsuit is to make attendance to the party voluntary. Yes, you want everyone to be there and you want to help people out of their shells a little bit. But as soon as you make attendance mandatory, a host of rules kick in, from issues with payment to workers’ compensation.


5. Set a good example

The best way to ensure a successful party? Enjoy yourself in the way you expect employees to enjoy themselves. A good leader can set the tone for an enjoyable party the same way he or she can establish the tone for a meeting.

People who would push the envelope or do something inappropriate should feel like their actions would spoil the good time people are having, not spice up a boring office function.

If your business is facing a lawsuit from a current or former employee, our firm can help. We’ve assisted thousands of business owners, large and small, across Pennsylvania in defending against employee lawsuits. If you want an effective solution, contact our law offices today for an immediate consultation.