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Company Holiday Parties – How To Avoid Liability Claims for Your Company

The company holiday party is always a mixed bag of quirky stories and silly moments. It is possible, however, for things to go too far, well beyond the shy employee who went out dancing with a tie on his head or the one who went rogue with the dress code. There is always potential for things to go off the rails. Do you know your company’s responsibility in these situations? Is there a risk of the annual party becoming a liability process? Find out how to avoid unforeseen events and how you can guarantee a hassle-free holiday for your team.


The location, day of the week and time of the party are important decisions. These decisions can be crucial to the party’s success. Remember that we are talking about responsibility and decisions must be based on what is best for the company. No need to plan for the kind of party you would throw on your birthday, for example. There are, however, many things you’ll want to take into consideration. 

  • A party held at the workplace may remind employees to act professionally, but may not feel like a party.
  • Consider an outdoor location: throwing a party at a restaurant can be a very practical solution. You will still be held responsible for the authorization to serve alcohol, but in terms of physical space, you will share the responsibility with the restaurant.
  • If you are concerned about the effects of drinking, offer an alcohol-free lunch.
  • Set the party with a defined start and end time. This makes it easier to control inappropriate behavior.
  • Weekend parties are freer and more prone to overkill, so you may want to consider doing it on a weekday.


The party is a get-together between work teams, and the Christmas season is just a great excuse for it. Don’t exclude people of other beliefs or other ethnicities.

Employers may consider creating a planning committee that includes employees with diverse backgrounds. Participants are more likely to be diverse if the planning committee is diverse.

Voluntary Attendance: 

Employers must make participation in the holiday party voluntary, as people may have different reasons for not attending. Furthermore, it is very important not to imply that participation in the party will benefit or harm an employee’s position in the company. Mandatory attendance can lead to wage and overtime issues.


The company owner, directors and coordinators are responsible for setting good examples. Ideally, they will avoid excessive alcohol consumption, avoid controversial issues and, above all, avoid intimate comments with their employees. Our judgment is compromised under the influence of alcohol and certain speech coming from a higher position (hierarchically) can be interpreted as harassment.


Serving alcoholic beverages at the end of the year party is one of the main reasons behind the shameful stories we hear in the following days. Responsible drinking during the party can avoid a lot of problems. Some ways to manage alcohol consumption and its effects:

  • Limit the time period. The longer the event, the more alcohol will be consumed.
  • Hire a waiter and bartender service. This helps to control the amount of drink in the glass, the drinks themselves and possible mixes.
  • Consider serving only beer and wine. Distilled drinks are much stronger and harder to control.
  • Always serve food with drinks. Drinking on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster.
  • Provide some form of entertainment or distraction to make employees less likely to overindulge in alcohol.
  • Stop serving drinks between an hour and half an hour before the end of the party and serve dessert and coffee instead.
  • Provide a taxi service, travel app, or a bus that takes everyone home. An employee driving while intoxicated will be your responsibility, so it is important to look for ways to prevent this from happening. While it may seem like an additional expense, the cost of a few taxi rides is significantly less than the costs of litigation.


We live in new times and what may have passed in the early 2000s can be questionable or even criminal by today’s standards. Thousands of sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed in recent years and the numbers are rising every year.

‘Jokes,’ seemingly innocent compliments, and comments are very common at this type of party and can be the beginning of a turmoil. Providing harassment awareness and training can help clarify what is acceptable and what is not. Have a written sexual harassment policy in place and make sure employees understand that it applies in all work-related environments, not just during normal or traditional working hours.

A week or so before the party may be a good time to review the harassment policy and issue a memo to remind employees to act responsibly at the party, expressing a lack of tolerance for any inappropriate behavior, including drunkenness. If a problem does occur, your emphasis on company policy can help defend a potential lawsuit.

Ah! Very important: no mistletoe hanging around the party!

And speaking of responsibility… BRZ Insurance publishes these tips with the intention of helping business owners understand and mitigate risks. But it is important that we make clear that we are talking in a general way; every state has its own legislation and each company has its specifics. Contact your BRZ agent for information on specific risks.

We hope you have a good end of the year! Don’t forget to review and renew your insurance. Do it today and secure 2021 rates for the year ahead!

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