No matter what holiday you celebrate, the holiday season brings us together in a time of celebration and recognition of a (hopefully) successful year gone by.
Many of us choose this time of year to recognize the hard work of our staff, and to build camaraderie through a holiday party. This is a great opportunity to have some fun, socialize and show our staff some appreciation...but there should be limits to the partying because the liability limits are high.
In some cases, very high- in a case that was recently brought to my attention (Jacobsen vs Nike Canada) the employer was found to be liable for in excess of $2 million in damages.
As an employer you have a duty of care to your employees and the liability for alcohol consumption ( even at an after hours event), is part of that. This goes beyond the holidays too- Golf Tournaments, Summer BBQs and related events all apply too.
In addition to the financial repercussions associated with alcohol, these events can also come with behaviour from attendees that is overly familiar for a workplace and often can lead to harassment complaints.
Remember that workplace violence and harassment can also involve people other than your immediate staff. Third party members such as vendor staff, wait staff, guests, Uber/taxi drivers, and others also may fall within the parameters of workplace violence and harrassment.
As we head into the holiday season, this is a great opportunity to remind staff of the responsibility to behave professionally, that the holiday party you provide is still a workplace event and that your code of conduct applies.
You can also help mitigate your liability by taking some proactive measures such as:
Ensuring that alternate transportation is available for staff that may be under the influence (remember, this might not only be alcohol either!)
Change where your generosity is given, offering a drink ticket and dinner instead of open bar can assist in limiting the amount that is consumed, and help people behave more in line with expectations.
Clearly remind managers to manage. Making sure there are sober and responsible leaders at events can also help ensure things don't get out of hand by gentling cutting people off from the bar, helping them get safe transportation and generally keeping control.
Keep your event during business hours or at a business location. The hidden assumption that people have "moved over" from work to party time can sometimes be a trigger to over-indulge. If it is operationally feasible, maybe a holiday lunch where work is still in focus may be more appropriate for your culture.
Be sure you have clear policies in place such as code of conduct, workplace violence and harassment and the use of substances.
This should be a time of fun and celebration, but the responsibility lies with us as employers to make it safe and fun for everyone.
If you are concerned about violence, harassment or other issues in this post and would like to know more about how we can assist dealerships through the holiday season (and beyond) than #letstalk.