With December already here, employers everywhere are turning their thoughts to the annual holiday party. Putting careful consideration and planning into your holiday party now may reduce the risk of numerous types of liability later.
* Choose refreshments wisely – It’s best to avoid serving alcoholic beverages entirely. Employers may be found liable for the actions of employees under the influence, even hours after they’ve left the party. Alcohol also opens employers up to claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and other claims that may result from poor judgment and behavior prompted by alcohol consumption.
* Choose your words wisely – If attendance at the party is voluntary, be certain to include that in writing in your communications. If attendance is required, or if employees are even made to feel they must attend, you may be on the hook for wages for those hours. Even if a holiday luncheon is held during your regular lunch time at the work site, you must let employees know it is still voluntary – otherwise they’ve been denied the ability to leave the premises during their meal break, and may be owed a meal break penalty.
* Choose location wisely – Offsite parties at restaurants and other venues may be festive and fun, but unless it’s made clear that the party is completely voluntary, the employer may be responsible for injuries that occur at the party as well as traveling to and from.
* Choose decorations and activities wisely – Employers should be sensitive to the fact that employees practice many different faiths and religions and no religion should be discriminated against. There should be an atmosphere of openness and inclusion, and requests to pass on the company party for religious reasons should be honored.
Contact Freeland Law APC for a consultation with Michael Freeland, experienced employment lawyer serving San Diego, California.
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