According to the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, three out of four US firms will host holiday parties for their staff between November and December of this year. An argument for the necessity of company-sponsored festivities can certainly be made, what with rising burnout statistics and election season induced stress, but these events invariably introduce ethical liabilities.
Of the companies intending on conducting a holiday party this year, more than half of them will additionally serve alcohol. Of the larger half that will serve alcohol, a lesser half (47%) will actually regulate intake among attendees. According to a recent survey conduced by Alchol.org of more than 1,400 US workers, the more booze served at a corporate event, the more HR complaints pock the ensuing days. The study authors write, “Holiday parties with heavy drinking are more likely to experience sexual harassment among employees. And while it doesn’t take too much alcohol to impair people’s ability to drive safely, drunk driving is connected to binge drinking in 85% of cases. Just because you don’t drink all night at your party doesn’t mean you might not accidentally fall into the category of a binge drinker. The CDC maintains four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more drinks for men constitute as binge drinking.”
To get a better idea of how to navigate proper conduct in a casual company setting, Ladders leaned on the insights of discrimination and harassment expert, Beth P. Zoller,
JD. Zoller dedicated many years to serving employees in the face of contract negotiations, restrictive covenants, and wage and hour disputes before she joined the team over at XpertHR as a Legal Editor. On the key question, Zoller concedes that hosting parties for staff can yield a beneficial impact on office morale and coworker collaboration, while also noting the potential for misconduct, writing, “Providing employees with the opportunity to socialize with co-workers in a relaxing environment is an excellent way to improve employee morale,” explains Zoller “However, serving alcohol to employees is a risk and a potential liability. Therefore, employers should ensure that employees are aware of the employer’s code of conduct and policies regarding harassment and improper conduct. This is particularly true in the #MeToo era when the risk of liability is heightened.”