Holiday Party Etiquette

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Happy Halloween.  According to, Halloween originated with an ancient Celtic festival where people would light fires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.  Today, most people associate the day with costumes, candy, and decorations.  Do you know what Halloween means for me?  Just 4,752,000 seconds to shop until Christmas…

For many businesses, Halloween is the official launch of the Holiday season.  There is a lot of consideration in planning and deciding on events for the Holidays both from a legal and financial perspective.  Bloomberg Business Week recommends some considerations for Planning Office Holiday Parties Without Lawsuits.

What to Call It:  Most offices use the term Holiday Party to incorporate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and other holidays celebrated during this time.

Whom to Invite:  It may be wise to invite “Employee, Plus Guest”.  This eliminates any concerns for same sex couples and employees without spouses or partners.  What about seasonal workers or contractors?  Inviting them in the same way you invite employees means you may assume the accompanying legal risks.

Alcohol: The safest bet is not to have any!  Try fun and festive drinks like these without any alcohol.  If you must have alcohol, establish firm rules and supervision for minors.  Consider hiring a bartender and security to help be your eyes and control overconsumption.  Finally, have cab vouchers available that employees may obtain from a non-manager, at no cost.

Requiring Attendance: Respect employees who may choose not to attend.  There may be underlying reasons that you are not aware of such as a recovering alcoholic who may not be comfortable or Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not celebrate holidays. Requiring employees to attend or even strongly suggesting it may open the door to needing to pay the employee as it could be considered “work.”

It is ok to include having fun and building camaraderie as some of the top goals of holiday events.  However, employee safety and legal risk need to be in the forefront of all decision making.  Happy Holiday party planning!  Be safe and have fun.

Author’s note: This article is not intended as legal advice.


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