Employers can avoid holiday party liabilities ~ as a ’tis the season rhyme

Twas the employer’s holiday party, getting all away from the house
Employees were stirring, excited to be out
The company took many precautions with care
To avoid claims of liability after the celebratory affair

Tables were lined with food and employees were well fed
So none of the eggnog would go too far to their head
Exempt managers were assigned to put on the cap
Of anyone who took too many trips to the tap

Social media coordinators and other employees who took plenty a picture
Were reminded to be careful before posting to Facebook or Twitter
But the employer and its counsel made sure to vet any policy
To avoid the wrath of the NLRB

In the days before the big holiday event
Employees were reminded of policies against sexual harassment
But these precautions were not limited to protections of gender
They included every protected class status to stop any offender

Those who attended were asked to bring another
So anything done would be approved by their grandmother
Other accommodations were made to prevent anyone’s offense
Whether thinking of age or religion, make sure to use commonsense

ADA, ADEA, PDA, and Title VII
Think of them all to prevent harassment and discrimination
Any proving complex, give your counsel a call
Because even at the holiday party, employees may be protected by all

Don’t even dismiss the FMLA
Or assume employees on leave must stay away
If someone shows up though they have a serious health condition
Attendance may still fit well within any restriction

To help avoid any claims for premium rate overtime
Be careful with those to whom tasks are assigned
Hand out any work to those who are FLSA exempt
And allow the rest to enjoy the night like they were meant

Give any bonuses or awards during the workday with care
So no business is held at the party while everyone is there
Of course, make sure attendance is an option
And hold the party away from the place of business operation

Try as you might, sometimes you may not stop all harm
Any injury while working may not be cause for great alarm
For if employees are injured for any reason
You may be covered under worker’s compensation

An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure
And all the laws and regulations can seem like a blur
Consult a lawyer to stave off any liability fright
So that all will applaud the big party night

Jesse Dill is an associate with the labor and employment practice group of Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s Milwaukee office representing employers in the workplace. As part of the firm’s monthly breakfast seminar series, you can learn more about these and other creative tips when they discuss “The Holiday Party: Tips to Avoid Liability with Libations” on Dec. 6, 2012. To sign up or for more information visit www.arnstein.com/events.

“Employers can avoid holiday party liabilities” was first published on BizTimes.com, Milwaukee Business News.

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