The sun is shining. The snow is melting. Flowers are in full bloom. It’s springtime! And it’s the time of year that many employers have company gatherings like team dinners, picnics or barbecues. While company parties help build camaraderie, coalesce teams and increase employee satisfaction, these events pose risks. Here we share ways to deter risks before the festivities begin.


Paying everyone

Nonexempt employees who are asked to or electively perform work-related to set up, clean up or other party activities during the event should be compensated for that time. Any breaks taken for eating would follow standard wage and hour regulations. Check your state wage and hour rules for additional pay requirements.

Assuming all independent contractors are properly classified and meet state regulations, wage and hour considerations only apply as they may be dictated in the contractor’s agreement with your business. Review the agreement in place to determine if you are obligated to pay the contractor to attend any company events.

Going offsite

Hosting a spring or summer party at an offsite location is a smart idea. Your employees will be thankful for the change in setting, but keep in mind that this could alter insurance liabilities for your company, especially when it comes to third-party alcohol and injury policies. Check out more on employer liability during company events.

Having alcohol

If alcohol is available at the location of a company-sponsored event, regardless of whether or not it was intended to be consumed during the hours of the event, the employer may incur risks for vicarious liability. In the event that participants continue the party at the bar or restaurant where the event was held, the employer may want to offer reimbursement for public transportation or taxi rides in the event of intoxication. This would demonstrate responsibility on the employer’s part, as well as potentially minimize the employer’s liability if an employee causes an accident due to driving under the influence.

Hiring a third party to verify identifications and manage drink consumption is an added layer of protection and a great consideration, though doing so may still not fully eliminate the liability for the sponsoring party. Work with your general liability broker and legal counsel to draft an agreement that minimizes risk and consider hand stamps, colored wrist bracelets or identifiers on name badges that signify underage or age-appropriate drinkers.

Planning activities

For the creatively enthused, you can set up some arts and crafts stations—have employees decorate cookies, plant flowers or play trivia! These fun activities will inspire a little creativity and teamwork, while also keeping shenanigans at bay. Learn more about handling potential harassment at a company event.

Getting everyone home safely

When the festivities come to a close, make sure that your employees get home safe and sound. While employers aren’t required to provide rides, this is a best practice for avoiding accidents and employee liability. Whether it’s hiring cabs or ordering ride shares on the house, you’ll be risk and worry free in knowing that everyone has a ride home.