So, your holiday party is this weekend and you're on the fence about whether you should offer alcoholic beverages. Remember that your organization could be at risk for legal liability if a drunken employee harms him/her or others, or otherwise harasses other employees
This said, be sure that you have a clear policy statement in place now requiring employees to exercise good judgment and moderation in alcohol consumption at any business-related function. If you decide to serve alcohol, its best to keep an eye on how many drinks you are limiting employees to. Following a few tips can save you headaches come Monday morning.
• Be sure that your employee manual has a policy that states the use of alcohol and any illegal drugs while working is prohibited. The policy should also state any exceptions that you may have for business social functions, such as the holiday gathering.
• All employees should know that the attendance of a holiday gathering is voluntary, and that the function is a social event. This will separate the function from being work-related.
• Make it clear that any employee that becomes intoxicated at an employer-sponsored event will be subject to disciplinary action.
• Remind all employees that work rules regarding appropriate behavior and harassment do apply to employer-sponsored events.
• Don't (when possible) hold events at a location operated or staffed by the employer. A restaurant or other off-site location is preferred.
• Serve enough food that can help offset the effects of alcohol.
• Have a cab service available to pick employees up and drive them home.
Several years ago at a company-sponsored holiday party, we had an issue with an employee. He had become quite intoxicated and proceeded to touch, inappropriately, every female at the party. I had left early, so I was not involved in the fallout the following Monday morning. But I can assure you, the employee was dismissed (it was proven he had planned to do this, so it was premeditated) and the company was facing lawsuits from 10 female employees who were none too pleased at the behavior of this drunk employee.
This time of year everyone is ready to relax and celebrate and have a great time. They should! It's why you are holding the party in the first place — to show how grateful you are for their hard work, efforts and dedication to your medical practice. By keeping a clear head about policy, and knowing when someone has had “enough,” everyone can have a fantastic time. This should be a very positive experience for your employees and you to enjoy!
Coming up next week: Scheduling time out to manage your practice. It is not only possible, but necessary.