It’s holiday time and with that comes the ubiquitous company-sponsored holiday parties. Besides merriment and hopefully good food, there are risks that can arise with such events. Each year incidents occur as result of such parties that may prompt claims against the employer. These claims can be brought on by third parties that may be harmed later by employees who attended a company event.  Employers should consider a few of the risks that can arise from their holiday fete and plan a way to handle them.

Alcohol is almost always present at most company parties and employees who may imbibe a bit too much may cause injuries to third parties as a result of intoxication. Employers should work to keep those attendees that may be intoxicated from driving and perhaps have taxis or other transportation at the ready for those who cannot drive themselves home safely. A good practice to consider may be to limit how many alcoholic drinks can be distributed to each attendee and even having a professional bartender do the serving. This may avoid the problem of having intoxicated employees altogether. Additionally, if employees bring underage guests to the celebration with them, it’s important that those underage attendees be kept from partaking of alcoholic drinks.

Sexual harassment is also a concern. At holiday parties, and perhaps under the influence of alcohol, hands may roam and people may dance too close. It’s often at these parties that desire can increase and inhibitions decrease, with people crossing lines they would otherwise never do during the regular workday. Employers should keep an eye out for misbehavior and put a stop to it immediately.

Religious or other discrimination may also be perceived by some employees if they feel pressured to attend a holiday event.  Some employees may be Jehovah Witnesses, who do not celebrate holidays. A newly sober worker may feel uncomfortable attending an event where alcohol would be served and gay or lesbian employees may feel uncomfortable bringing same-sex partners.  Employers need to respect the choices of those who may choose not to attend and not pressure them to so or to explain why.

Holiday parties are a great way to promote team spirit and lift morale, so there is great value in having them.  Employers just need to make sure they take some of the possible risks into consideration when planning their company-sponsored events.  If you have any questions regarding company-sponsored holiday parties, or any other employment law issues, please contact one of our attorneys today at (520) 623-4353 or

Udall Law Firm has a full service employment and labor law practice. From employment litigation and representation proceedings to collective bargaining and human relations, our attorneys are equipped and ready to handle a full range of labor and employment related matters.

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