Lawyers have a reputation for being party-poopers. But this time of year we are especially called on to be Grinches of workplace fun. It could be, perhaps, that our shoes are too tight. Or it could be that our heads aren’t screwed on just right. But the most likely reason of all… is definitely not that our hearts are two sizes too small (because everybody knows lawyers don’t have hearts). The truth is, we hate fun because we care – we want to see each and every one of our clients and their employees make it safely through the holidays.
So, here are some tips if you’re hosting holiday events or just encouraging a little goofing off in the holiday spirit:
Attendance is not mandatory. Although we may want everyone to relax and enjoy some down time together, if we require people to attend or a work function, it’s work. You may have to pay them. It also sets the wrong tone.
Most of these tips deal with alcohol. Don’t serve it. If you do decide to serve it, consider having the event off-site, with alcohol served by a licensed establishment, and confirm in writing that they are responsible for monitoring and refusing service to intoxicated persons. Letting your employees pour their own drinks is a bad idea. Open bars can also invite trouble. Consider a cash bar or a ticket system for a limited number of free drinks. Make employees aware ahead of time – through a policy or pre-event memorandum – that intoxication at the party or any other Company event is prohibited and contrary to your expectations of good judgment and responsibility. Have a method of dealing with intoxicated employees – free transportation home, designated drivers, and/or taxi cabs.
Have some "chaperones." Ok, it’s not a junior high dance, but somebody should be paying attention to the possibility that one or more employees may act inappropriately, or over-imbibe, or head off to the coat room with a co-worker – and be ready to politely intervene if necessary. You should be prepared to enforce your general rules of workplace conduct as they may apply even in these settings. You certainly need to enforce your harassment policy. Leave the mistletoe at home.
Encourage spouses and significant others to attend. This has a way of keeping folks on their best – or at least better – behavior.
You may also want to check your insurance policies before any events – especially if they are in the workplace – to ensure that there is coverage in the event of an unfortunate accident. So, as we stare down this season from our big Grinchy caves, with our sour Grinchy frowns, at the warm, lighted windows below in your towns, we’ll know that all of you down in your workplaces beneath are busy now, safely hanging your holiday wreaths.
This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.