Monday, November 29, 2010

7 tips for a safe workplace holiday party

I spent my collegiate summers earning money working in a warehouse in Philadelphia. It was an employment lawyer’s dream. One employee thought the best way to motivate his black co-workers was to hide buckets of fried chicken around the warehouse. Another, upset that he did not get a big enough raise, hanged our boss in effigy in front of a mural of a swastika that read, “Die Cheap Jew.” And, there was an infamous holiday party during which an intoxicated employee attempted to sexually assault the boss’s wife on the dance floor.

According to an Kay Spector, writing in the Cleveland Plain Dealer over the weekend, 21% of companies are planning not to have a holiday party this year, the lowest number in 30 years. I am not one of the employment lawyers who think that holiday parties pose too large of a risk to be held. In fact, I believe that year-end parties are an excellent source of workplace morale, provided that employers and employees use some common sense in planning and attending. Here’s 7 tips for employers and employees to consider as we enter the workplace holiday party season:
  • Normal work rules and standards apply to holiday parties. As a subtle reminder, consider holding an anti-harassment refresher in anticipation of the party.
  • Review your insurance policies for alcohol-related exclusions. 
  • When scheduling your party, consider that employees are less likely to indulge on a work night than a Friday or Saturday. 
  • Remind employees to drink responsibly and plan ahead for safe transportation. Help employees by limiting consumption via drink tickets, offering plenty of non-alcoholic options, and providing designated drivers, cab vouchers, or hotel rooms for those unfit to drive home.
  • Have trained and experienced bartenders, and emphasize that they should not over-pour drinks, or serve guests who appear intoxicated or underage.
  • Designate one or more managers or supervisors to refrain from drinking and monitor the party for over-consumption.
  • Close the bar an hour or more before the party ends.