Employers might be a little more nervous than usual at this year’s company holiday party.

The traditional party carries a reputation of an event where coworkers tend to let their guard down outside the office. But the increased awareness of sexual harassment has created what some are calling “The Weinstein Effect,” leading workplaces to be much more cautious about their employees and providing a comfortable work environment.

“In context, something may be funny, but the next day it may not be funny anymore,” Art Lamber said.

He's an attorney for Fisher Phillips, a law firm representing companies targeted for lawsuits by their employees.

The holiday party is an opportunity for employers to increase moral among their staff, but Lambert says companies have scaled down their parties over the last 10 years.

“Sometimes people get confused with the fact this is a social gathering, but they are expected to behave up to company standards," he said.

A survey from Challenger, Gray, and Christmas found that while 80 percent of companies are planning a holiday party, the number of them serving alcohol has decreased by 13 percent. Lambert said open bars are quickly becoming harder to find at holiday parties because of the liabilities and risk of harassment or drunk driving incidents.

Fisher Phillips made the following list and advises employers to check it twice in order to best keep themselves and their employees off the naughty list:

  1. If possible don’t serve alcohol. Instead have a catered lunch at your company’s offices.
  2. Always serve food if alcohol is available. Be sure and also have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand too.
  3. Avoid an “open bar” where employees can drink as much as they want. Consider using a drink-ticket system or a cash bar. Holiday parties are meant to celebrate and improve office morale – not to encourage or enable employees to get intoxicated.
  4. Do not serve alcoholic punch or other beverages that make it difficult to gauge how much alcohol one person consumes.
  5. Hire professional bartenders and instruct them to discreetly let you know if they feel someone has had too much to drink.
  6. Invite spouses and significant others so that there will be someone there to help keep an eye on your employees and, if necessary, get them home safely.
  7. Schedule parties on a weeknight when employees may be less likely to overindulge.
  8. Consumption of alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment. This can result in employees saying and doing things that they would not ordinarily do. Remind employees that, while you encourage everyone to have a good time, your company’s normal workplace standards of conduct will be in force at the party and misconduct at or after the party can result in disciplinary action
  9. Arrange for designated drivers, reduced cab fares, or a no-cost ride share service if employees are obviously impaired by alcohol.
  10. Never, never, never hang mistletoe!

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