Employers Pulling Plug On Holiday Parties Amid Harassment Claims

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 - 9:30am
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017 - 10:10am

The wave of sexual harassment cases across the country has put the office holiday party on notice.

This year in an annual survey, more than 10 percent of companies said they opted out of hosting holiday parties. And, of those will host parties, said they stopped providing alcohol.

That is in stark contrast to last year, according to Chicago human resource firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., which conducted the annual survey.

In last year's survey, the 2016 holiday season showed a spike in alcohol hosted parties with a record 64 percent of companies reporting they picked up the bar tab.

Local labor relations attorney John Balitis said employers' fears of mixing alcohol with an after-hour office party are justified.

"Despite the fact that this is not during working hours and may not be at the employer's place of business, that injury, in most cases is still going to be compensable through the workers' compensation scheme," Balitis said.

He added that employers can reduce the risk of liability by moving the party to a restaurant or bar where a greater portion of the alcohol liability falls on the establishment's shoulders, but that does not preclude the employer entirely from a potential claim.

He recommended employers recirculate the company's anti-harassment policies before the annual party is underway.

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