Some businesses dread the holiday season as it creates situations hard to control. If you said “never again” guess what – it is here – again.
According to Erika Frank, CalChamber’s general counsel and VP of Legal Affairs “employers should start thinking now about how they want to manage holiday parties. Alcohol-fueled mistakes could have a lasting impact on individual careers or on the business as a whole.”
The use of alcohol at work is a concern for many employers throughout the year. It’s ironic that some employers with strong anti-alcohol and drug programs actually serve alcohol during work hours, to employees, at holiday parties. In some cases employees then return to work, even in hazardous occupations, under the influence of alcohol. If an employee is injured in an accident, the employer is exposed to legal liability and excessive workers’ comp claims.
Alcohol, business entertaining, and employee functions are a volatile mix. You need to understand your organization’s needs and responsibilities before setting policy. If you don’t want to prohibit alcohol consumption totally and thus be viewed as the “holiday bad guy,” then take a proactive position to control consumption, require accountability, and limit your exposure.
The most conservative position is to ban alcohol consumption throughout the company building. A more practical solution is to have clear policy statements that address key issues. For example:
- Limiting the availability and consumption of alcohol by stipulating that it may be served only for a set period of time.
- Use of alcohol and illegal drugs
- Behavior at social functions – especially at client/customers premises.
- Company policy prohibiting harassment
Be sure to define consequences for unacceptable behavior.
Consider that many employers forego an evening affair in exchange for a holiday luncheon. Ifnonexempt employees are required to attend a lunchtime party, their employer will owe them a one-hour missed meal penalty. It doesn’t matter that the employees performed no productive work during the party or that the employer fed them. If attendance is not completely voluntary, the nonexempt employees technically missed a meal period and are owed the penalty.”
You may want to visit the OSHA website and view the recently issued employer guidelines for safe holiday parties: A Safe and Sober Message about Workplace Parties and Drinking – www.osha.gov/law-regs.html.
Author: Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org