Top tips from N.J. lawyers on the company holiday party

Andrew Sheldon//December 21, 2015

Top tips from N.J. lawyers on the company holiday party

Andrew Sheldon//December 21, 2015

Much like wrapped presents, holiday parties come in all shapes and sizes.

Depending on what features a company looks to include in their holiday cheer, there are various considerations that need to be taken.

Have no fear, NJBIZ went to a few experts to get some do’s and don’ts for the holiday season:

1) Keep it professional

Employees need to remember that, even though it’s a celebration of the most wonderful time of the year, it’s still a professional gathering — no matter where it takes place. So says Greg Alvarez, a shareholder at Jackson Lewis.

“Even though it’s outside of the workplace, it’s still a company sponsored event, so (employees) need to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner at all times,” he said. “An employee will routinely forget that, confuse those issues and that can create liability for the employer and employee, if not simply awkward situations for everybody involved.”

2) Send a message

While employees should always conduct themselves professionally, Alvarez said it’s always a good idea for an employer to remind its workers of this fact before to the event.

“There should be a little reminder just prior to the party reminding employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner and not to drink excessively,” he said.

3) Have a plan

Alvarez said it’s important to have plans in place to keep possible liabilities to a minimum, including parties in the office with family invited or even no drinking at all.

Dave Lichtenberg, partner Fisher & Phillips, said sometimes companies will provide drink tickets in an effort to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, but he warns that’s not a fool-proof solution, either.

“Some employers give tickets to employees so they can only have a certain number of drinks and they cap it,” he said. “There’s always the person that’s going to be able to hoard tickets or find them and go back over and over again.”

4) Call a cab

Alvarez said one of the most important safeguards to have in place, one that can easily be planned for in advance, is to know who is to be called when an employee needs an alternate means of transportation home.

“If you have to struggle to find a car service, then it’s going to make it more difficult to address that kind of situation,” he said. “(And) there is the potential for liability in those circumstances.”

5) Don’t make connections

Lichtenberg cautions employers not to link any observations between an employee’s excessive drinking and poor performance.

“It’s reasonable for companies to come to the conclusion that there’s a common cause here, namely alcohol abuse,” he said. “But, from a legal standpoint, it’s dangerous — even if it’s reasonable — to come to conclusions that people are not being productive because they have over imbibed in alcohol or other substances.”

Instead, it’s best to separate the two and simply address the lack of productivity by keeping track of an employee’s under performance. This gives an employer objective grounds on which to deal with the employee.