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Michael Abcarian, managing partner of the Dallas office of Fisher & Phillips, offers tips for employers on how to help avoid having a nasty financial hangover from your company’s holiday party.

Normal work rules apply

Many employers and employees are not aware that the same rules and policies for employee behavior apply whether the party is at the office or at a bar. Remind employees that misconduct such as sexual harassment, telling inappropriate jokes, or starting a fight at the party can result in disciplinary action. Employers should remember that setting the standard for appropriate behavior begins at the top.

Eliminate the pressure

Don’t pressure anyone to attend the holiday party. Some employees might not want to participate because of religious reasons, or because they abstain from alcohol. Another good strategy to help promote self-control when things might otherwise get edgy is to include spouses.

Keep religion out of the party

Avoid religious themes to ensure all employees are comfortable. Keep things neutral with a generic holiday theme. 

Forget the “open bar”

Your company may be held liable if an intoxicated employee leaves the party and later gets into trouble with the law. Remind employees to drink responsibly and plan ahead for safe transportation. You might also consider serving only beer or wine, or using a ticket system to control the number of drinks consumed. If the party is on-site, consider hiring professional bartenders who can monitor or limit the consumption of alcohol by those who may be having too good a time. 

Use Common Sense

At holiday time, a little common sense goes a long way. Leave the mistletoe at home, hold the party on a weekday and close the tab early. No one wants to have their holiday cheer spill into a courtroom.