Planning a Company Outing? Reduce liabilities with some sound planning.

First, decide whether an outside professional group will plan the event or an internal group within the company.  The external group has advantages regarding reducing liability, but budget is a factor.


Regardless of the above choice, areas of concern include:


•             Is attendance mandatory or voluntary?
•             Are family members or customers invited?
•             Alcohol policy
•             Transportation policy
•             Conduct code – professional or fun
•             Events construed as sexual harassment or hostile
•             Social media aftermath


Mandatory attendance will be construed as work.  The company will be subject to hourly wages, workers’ compensation claims, and a variety of regulatory issues.  Opt for voluntary whenever practical.


Will employee’s families attend?  This question is the double edged sword.  Families love inclusion and self-govern behavior.  The bad news is families self-govern behavior.  What process is in place for a wild or disruptive spouse?  How about inappropriate airing of the family laundry?  Is there bad blood between a spouse and a customer?


The obvious answer is prohibition.  No alcohol permitted.  Sometimes, alcohol can be very appropriate as long as measures are in place to curtail excess.  One rule of thumb is to only allow work-like demeanor or behavior.  Under this rule, alcohol would be banned.


Not so obvious, suppose a spouse, child or customer is an alcoholic?  In some states, marijuana is now legal.  Does the alcohol consumption open the door for the pot?  Strictly from a liability viewpoint, drugs and alcohol should be banned from any company function.


Transportation can be arranged for group activities away from the work campus, but use caution.  Just as with mandatory attendance, the risk of transporting employees brings in workers’ compensation issues.


All the rules of the workplace, including sexual harassment and bullying, apply to the fun outings.  Communicate this fact to all employees prior to the event.


Posting reports and pictures from the outing is good for morale, but screen the social media for embarrassing or inappropriate content.


Think through these issues and decide what sort of outing is appropriate for your company.  Create a set of behavioral standards based on the event.  For example, competitive sports or team building may get rowdier than a night at the opera.  Communicate those expected behaviors for employees and their families.


Properly managed employee expectations will relax the group and put some fun into the company function.
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