I was in the middle of drafting this post about workplace holiday celebrations when the horrific news came in about the mass shooting at a San Bernadino, California workplace holiday party.  While the government investigates and determines whether a workplace dispute served as a potential motive in this case, this tragedy may place a pall over other workplace holiday celebrations.  Before yesterday’s incident, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) reported here that there will be fewer Company-sponsored holiday parties this year.  Whether budget-constraints or fear of liability contributed to the decline in office holiday parties, only two-thirds of workers will get to partake.  That number could decline in light of safety concerns following the San Bernadino shooting.

Companies choosing to maintain the tradition should consider the following:23798385_s

1) Ensure appropriate payment for non-exempt employees if attendance at a holiday event is mandatory.

2) Avoid religious decorations, rituals or menu items as employees may be entitled to reasonable accommodations based on a sincerely held religious belief.

3) Communicate the dress code for the party-and perhaps reiterate what is acceptable under the company’s policy.

4) Reduce alcohol-related risks. Companies may want to limit alcohol consumption by utilizing a drink ticket system, limiting the “open bar,” or providing activities or other entertainment to take the focus off drinking. Have a plan in place to prevent intoxicated employees from driving themselves home.

5) Ditch the mistletoe, dance contests or other sexually-charged activities to avoid behavior contrary to the sexual harassment policy.  If you don’t have a policy in place, now’s a good time to think about one.

6) Give back to those less fortunate with a charitable focus to a holiday celebration. In lieu of a traditional party, consider serving meals or packing boxes at a local shelter or other engaging in another fun, group activity to foster bonding at this time of year.