The holiday party season is here, and the Small Business Legal Center at the National Federation of Independent Business, together with The Cavanagh Law Firm, one Arizona’s leading employment law firms, are advising small-business owners to keep celebrations safe by watching out for problem areas – drunk driving and harassment.


Drunk Driving, Drugs, and Distracted Driving

An increasing number of states require employers to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries by intoxication or impairment of employees leaving holiday parties. To minimize the risk of liability, an employer could do the following:

  • Use professional bartenders, and instruct them not to serve anyone who appears intoxicated.
  • Distribute drink tickets to limit the number of free drinks to two and serve food.
  • Have an ending time to any company event, even happy hours.
  • Ask trusted managers and supervisors to be on the look-out for people who have had too much to drink and unable to drive or need assistance getting home.
  • Consider setting up a corporate account with Uber, Lyft or similar service to take people home.
  • Pay for cabs to take impaired employees and guests home or offer designated drivers.
  • Remind employees that Prescription or legal drugs can impair employees’ ability to drive (watch out for edible brownies!)
  • Texting is still one of the most dangerous activities to engage in when driving.

Harassment and Inappropriate Conduct

Socializing, alcohol, drugs, and mistletoe combine to create an environment that can lead to sexual harassment or fighting. Just because it’s a holiday party, doesn’t mean you can’t be liable for what happens as an employer. Employee lawsuits can result from voluntary events held outside the office and outside normal work hours.

  • Remind employees about the company’s anti-harassment policies before the party.
  • If your business does not have an anti-harassment policy, get one! Check out the free sample policy developed by NFIB. Have an attorney review it.
  • Don’t hang mistletoe.
  • Ask trusted managers and supervisors to intervene and stop any fighting or inappropriate conduct that witnesses report.
  • Finally, make sure that all employees understand that a holiday party is a work-related activity, and that rules for appropriate work behavior still apply.