Holiday Party Legal Issues

Employers and individuals can face legal liability during Halloween or other Holiday parties and functions.  Here is some basic information (Updated 12.08.13)—

The Work Halloween or Holiday Celebration Party

It might be prudent to issue a policy regarding Halloween or other Holiday parties.  Review your company policies regarding parties and social events whether you are an employee (i.e. to understand dos and don’ts) or an employer.  Update the policy if necessary and send it out in an appropriate amount of time.  For example, indicate to employees that the holiday is not a break from workplace rules.  To continue the example, perhaps instructing employees that they should not wear a costume or other clothing that is inconsistent with “our equal employment opportunity or diversity policy or safety policies” would do well to prevent an incident.

Parties involving costumes invite discrimination in its various forms: race, religion, sex, etc.  For example, it is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex and this can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.  This can also include offensive remarks.  It might be prudent to republish your sexual harassment policy in advance of any holiday party and make it clear that harassment in any form will not be tolerated.  Moreover, some employees might have religious beliefs that prevent participation in Halloween activities or other Holiday party activities.

After the event, take stock of the party.  Were there unexpected problems that arose?  Did employees behave?  What future preventative measures need to be instituted?  Should the harassment policy or other policies be revised?  Continually think about TQM in regards to your company’s legal obligations.

By adding alcohol to these events, it can trigger additional liability.  Consider having an office party offsite, using a professional bartender, limiting the amount of drinks, offering plenty of nonalcoholic beverages, serving food, providing alternative transportation, and making sure your company is fully insured.  Otherwise, if a drunken employee causes an accident, it could result in legal exposure to the company (additionally, as a side note, if you are hosting a Holiday Party as an individual, you could face the same legal exposure from your guests).

As a final note, decorations in the work environment should not violate fire or safety codes.

Review Insurance

Regardless as to whether you are a homeowner preparing for trick-or-treaters or a company hosting a winter holiday party, check to be sure that you are adequately covered.

Prevent Issues

Make sure the path to your home for trick-or-treaters or guests is well lit.  Don’t put any decorations or other items in the path that could cause someone to trip.  Don’t use chemicals or other decorations that could cause someone to slip or could cause a curious child to “taste/eat” the decoration.

Be sure that candles, jack-o’-lanterns, or small decorations that could be swallowed cannot be accessed by children.  Burns and the possibility of costumes catching on fire is a real danger.  For safety, use electronic candles instead of real candles.  But, be sure not to overload electrical outlets.

For Christmas trees, keep open flames and other heat sources away from the tree, don’t place the tree in front of an emergency exit, check the tree lights to ensure they don’t get too hot, and unplug any lights or decorations when you are not in the room.

Keep your dog in the house, away from guests, and restrained at all times.  Even friendly dogs bite.

If your children are a bit older and heading out with friends, explain to them that vandalism is a crime (this is especially true during Halloween).  It could lead to jail time and/or a fine.

Pranks and Auto Insurance

Here is a link to an article about pranks covered by car insurance (please note, this office is not responsible for the content or accuracy of the yahoo news / carinsurance.com article):

http://autos.yahoo.com/news/5-halloween-pranks-covered-by-car-insurance-230701220.html

Copyright © 2013 Kyle R. Guelcher – All Rights Reserved. NOTICE: The materials contained in this website are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. The materials on this site may be considered advertising under the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Viewing this website or blog, requesting information, or contact by an attorney or associated attorney of the firm does not create an attorney-client relationship. You are advised to speak with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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