As many schools are looking forward to the holiday season and begin planning holiday parties, there is a tendency to forget the liability issues that could be associated with having a school staff party.  This article will provide helpful hints for avoiding liability and keeping the “Bah Humbug” out of holiday parties this year.

  1. Keep Religion Out of the Celebration: Just as you must avoid religious parties in the classroom, you must avoid religious ties during your holiday celebration. Throw either a generic “holiday” party or an “end-of-the-year” celebration.  This will ensure that none of your staff feels uncomfortable. You can also ask for staff input when planning your celebration.
  1. Remind Your Employees of Policies and Procedures: Even though this is a party, staff is required to abide by school policies and procedures. Ensure that your employees are reminded of your sexual harassment policies. Employees’ inhibitions may be lowered during the party, and inappropriate comments could be made.
  1. Choose Your Venue Wisely: If you will be having alcohol at your party, consider hosting your party at another venue besides the school campus. Not only is it inappropriate to have alcohol on your school campus, but having alcohol on campus will likely violate your school policy and/or state laws. Furthermore, if alcohol will be included, it may be best to not have an “open bar.” An open bar allows employees to drink as much as they want and opens you up to liability.  If you must have alcohol present, utilize a cash bar or a ticket system that will limit the amount of alcohol your employees can consume. You might also consider scheduling your holiday party on a week night, when your employees will have to report to work the next day.
  1. Arrange Transportation: If you choose to have alcohol at your holiday celebration, you should consider providing transportation for your employees to get home. Providing transportation to your employees may help guard against employees driving home after indulging.
  1. Do Not Mix a Lavish Holiday Party and Budget Cuts: If you are currently feeling the effects of the economy, do not throw a lavish holiday party. If you are making cuts to classroom supplies, many staff members might feel resentful of the money spent on a lavish party.
  1. Use Common Sense: Do not hang mistletoe at the holiday party. Encouraging employees to kiss at a holiday party will only set you up for claims of sexual harassment and unwanted touching. Playing sexually explicit songs is not appropriate. Maintain professionalism during your holiday celebration and expect your employees to do the same.

Utilize these tips when planning your holiday party and keep the “bah humbug” out of your celebration.

This article is a general discussion of guidelines to assist you in avoiding liability associated with holiday parties and is not intended to provide legal advice regarding a particular situation. Liability issues are complex and depend largely on specific facts. Schools are encouraged to seek specific legal advice regarding compliance with these issues.

 

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Keeping the “Bah Humbug” Out of Holiday Parties,  or any other education law matters, please feel free to contact Education Law Attorney, Kimberly R. Davis at 480.461.5387, log on to www.udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.