Employees deserve to celebrate occasionally, whether it’s for hitting sales goals, making it to retirement or for an annual holiday party. Unfortunately, office parties can get out of hand when alcohol is provided. Employers may be held liable when problems occur at work parties, even when they are hosted offsite. An employer could face litigation if an employee experiences sexual harassment or assault at a company-funded event.
Safety and liability issues
Employers are becoming wary of serving alcohol at office parties for a variety of relatively obvious reasons, such as safety concerns, liability issues, harassment claims and simple unwanted unpleasant behavior. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that workplace sexual harassment claims have spiked 12 percent, and lawsuits involving allegations of sexual harassment increased by 50 percent since last year on the heels of the #metoo movement of 2018.
With an amplified focus on protecting workers from unsafe situations, small and medium-sized business owners are beginning to limit and even eliminate alcohol from work functions. Attendees may complain about a lack of alcohol at parties, but more employment law firms and HR consultants are advising business owners to consider safety, liability & harassment potential first.
Should employers limit or ban alcohol?
Business owners might be concerned that banning alcohol will send a message that the company doesn’t trust its employees to act responsibly. Providing drink vouchers is one way to avoid this issue. Vouchers allow party attendees to drink alcohol but limits how many drinks are served per person. Another option is to only provide beer and wine. In the end, the safest route is to avoid alcohol at work parties altogether.
Instead of serving alcohol, employers might consider replacing it with a fun activity. Live entertainment and games can keep attendees busy and happy. Employers can rent creative venues, such as hosting parties at Escape Room LA to encourage employees to work together, or GlowZone LA where party-goers can mini golf in black light. Employees will have less concern about harassment during parties and employers can focus on celebrating the success of their company and its contributors.