Limiting liability risks at a summer party


You would like to plan an end-of-the-summer bash for your employees. How can you limit the liability risks?


For some companies, the office summer picnic or outing has replaced the office holiday party. However, summer office events present similar liability risks for the employer.Hot-weather headaches can come from drinking games, risky team-building activities, and even poorly executed party themes.

Philippe Weiss, attorney and managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, offered the following tips for planning summer celebrations:

  • Ticket the tequilas. Provide the event food, but limit the alcohol — such as by using a drink ticket system. Also, to limit food poisoning and other risks, it may be safest to avoid asking employees to cook any of the dishes.
  • Be open to employee opt-outs. Stress the fact that no one is expected to attend. This is as important as making sure everyone, at all levels, feels welcome. Don't forget to include your remoteworkers on the invites.
  • Pass up the perilous party themes.Ask yourself if the planned event theme in any way encourages people to act, or even dress, irresponsibly.Weiss has seen ill-fated themes and traditions, such as "Toga and Twister" parties and games of "Bobbing for Minibar Bottles," gone awry.
  • Don't get physical.Games should focus on friendly collaboration, not flagrant physical contact. Weiss recalled a "Mud Wrestle your Meanest Manager" competition that led to an unfortunate spate of post-party complaints. Assign a trusted internal "game and party planner" to carefully manage the agenda.

Source: Seyfarth Shaw at Work, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 8000, Chicago, IL 60606; telephone: 312-460-6242.

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