Fisher & Phillips Attorneys Advise Employers to Avoid the Spiked Eggnog at Holiday Parties

Houston, TX, December 18, 2014 --( While many of us enjoy a little holiday cheer and a celebratory toast, the Houston office of national employer-side labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips warns that employers should beware of liabilities at office holiday events, as charges stemming from often-excessive alcohol consumption are all too common. In fact, 87 percent of holiday party-goers report witnessing a fellow attendee under the influence of alcohol exhibit inappropriate behavior, according to a survey released this month by Caron Treatment Centers, a nationally-recognized substance abuse treatment center. According to the survey, the top three troublesome behaviors ranked as follows: arguing with others, using excessive profanity and flirting inappropriately.

“Consumption of alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, resulting in employees saying and doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t say or do,” said Stephen J. Roppolo, managing partner in the Houston office of Fisher & Phillips. “This sort of unpredictable behavior combined with today’s litigious work environment can leave employers open to a plethora of harassment claims.”

In addition to harassment issues, Roppolo warns that companies may be liable if an employee leaves an office holiday party intoxicated and is involved in an accident.

If employers decide that their event can’t go on without the spiced eggnog, Roppolo recommends making sure rules and procedures are in place to keep the holiday office party out of court.

--Always serve food if alcohol is offered and be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand.

-- Avoid an “open bar” where employees can drink as much as they want. Consider using a drink-ticket system or a cash bar.

--Do not serve alcoholic punch or other beverages that make it difficult to gauge how much alcohol one person consumes.

--Hire professional bartenders and instruct them to discreetly let you know if they feel someone has had too much to drink.

--Schedule parties on a weeknight when employees may be less likely to overindulge.

--Arrange for designated drivers, reduced cab fares or a no-cost taxi service if employees are obviously impaired by alcohol.

In addition to these tips, Fisher & Phillips advises employers to review insurance policies for alcohol-related exclusions and make sure supervisors are up-to-date on policies dealing with harassment.

“Without sounding like a Scrooge, it’s important to put guidelines in place to avoid creating an opportunity where too much holiday cheer leads to a costly holiday lawsuit,” said Roppolo.

About Fisher & Phillips LLP (
Fisher & Phillips LLP is a national law firm committed to providing practical business solutions for employers’ workplace legal problems. Labor and employment law is all the firm does, offering deep and broad knowledge and experience in the area of the law the attorneys know best. Fisher & Phillips attorneys help clients avoid legal problems, are dedicated to providing exceptional client service, and are there when you need them. The firm has 300 attorneys in 31 offices. In addition to Houston, the offices are in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Gulfport, Irvine, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, New England, New Jersey, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.
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Morgan Sanders