The holiday season has long been a time when employers hold holiday parties. Often the festivities occur on the employer’s premises, but, just as often, they are at a local establishment. Typically, alcohol is served. In the wake of the widespread news stories about workplace harassment, many employers are smart to be wary of sponsoring or organizing such events. After all, mixing alcohol, a social setting, and holiday good spirit can be a recipe for unwanted or unwelcome behavior, either by management or regular employees.

It is also worth noting that an employer-sponsored event, such as a holiday party, can result in injury claims, for either physical injuries which occur at or because of events at the party, or non-physical injuries resulting from behavior at these events. An employer sponsored event, or even one tacitly promoted, that might only involve employees, can readily be deemed an extension of the workplace sufficient to bring any injuries that may result to an employee, because of the event, into the arena of workers’ compensation.

Obviously, it is incumbent on an employer to set out some rules for such event, including who may be invited, the timing and location of the event, and the nature of the food and drink and festivities. Potential confrontations should be avoided, guest lists should be screened so as to avoid possible trouble from former or disgruntled employees, unhappy significant others, or tense relationships. Employers and employees should enjoy the holidays. They should have fun, but they should be smart and be safe.

Ross Gnesin is a principal of GCG Risk Management, Inc., a third-generation firm specializing in Workplace Safety, OSHA compliance, workplace training modules, workers’ compensation cost containment and all areas related to workplace safety. See what we are about at