Top 5 Holiday Party Tips

In case you haven't noticed, the holiday season is upon us. Every year, we get questions about what employers should (and shouldn't) do when it comes to holiday parties to avoid winding up in court (or jail). Let's start with some interesting statistics: Party On. 76% of employers will have some sort of holiday celebration – up 9% over last year's all-time low (67%). 58% will have a company-wide holiday party where all the employees gather in a single place (up from last year's 50%). 53% will hold the party on company premises. 47% will be during or near the end of the workday. 76% plan to keep party budgets the same as last year. 71% will use a caterer our outside event planner (versus only 36% last year). Less Booze. 58% will serve alcohol. That's a 3% drop from last year and a 7% drop from 2008. 74% will use professional bartenders to limit alcohol intake, 54% will restrict the time period during which alcohol is served, 49% will offer taxis, 24% will provide overnight hotel stays and 4% will appoint designated drivers. More Spouses. Spouses are invited to 52% of the parties, up from 47% last year. More Charity. 64% will participate in a charitable activity during the holidays, up from 59% last year. Grinchy Holiday Bonuses. Only 41% of employers will give employees a holiday bonus or gift. While that's an improvement over last year's record low of 33%, it's still a bit grinchy. So, what are the latest and greatest tips for avoiding legal liability without being too much of a Scrooge? Ask and you will receive . . . Have a party. Lots of employees are working harder than ever. They need a little celebratin'. Set expectations. Tell employees in advance what will and won't be allowed. Remind managers to act like managers and to be on the lookout for potential misconduct. Invite spouses. Doing so can help discourage bad behavior and has the side benefit of boosting good feelings about the company on the home front (unless the party's a total dud). Dump the booze. If you don't: (a) use tickets or some other system to limit the number of drinks; (b) use professional bartenders – not managers – to serve drinks, check IDs and monitor consumption; (c) offer lots of non-alcoholic beverages; and (d) provide taxis, hotel rooms and/or designated drivers for employees who over-indulge. Watch The Office. Rent Season 2 and watch the episode entitled "Christmas Party." Then tune in to NBC this Thursday for a special one-hour episode entitled "Classy Christmas." Then do the exact opposite of everything you see. Enjoy! (Sources: BNA; Challenger, Gray & Christmas)

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