It’s that time again: office holiday party season. Time to let loose, break out the champagne and celebrate a successful business year.
For many companies, this means hosting an office holiday party. Unfortunately for many employees, an office holiday party (especially a celebration that includes alcohol) is an opportunity to drink and drive. Perhaps, before planning a party, business owners should consider ways to help their employees avoid drinking and driving.
“The holiday season is a busy time for DUI arrests in Maryland,” said criminal defense attorney Ross Albers, of The Law Office of Ross W. Albers, in Columbia. “Businesses host parties, offer their employees alcohol — and have no plan for how these people are going to get home safely.”
HC DrugFree, a nonprofit in Howard County that focuses on substance misuse education, offers businesses these holiday tips to ensure employees a safe celebration without the worry of the consequences of drinking and driving.
First, consider not offering employees alcohol. Abstinence is always the best way to avoid a problem. For example, host a lunch during work hours and don’t serve alcohol. People won’t feel pressure to drink if they’re still on the clock like they might at a bar or restaurant.
If your business is going to serve alcohol at your office holiday party, then consider these options to make sure your employees get home safely.
- Consider offering employees an incentive to be a sober driver for their co-workers. Maybe, give them an extra personal day to use at their discretion or pay them a “sober driver” bonus.
- Another idea is to pay for your employees’ taxi cab, Uber or Lyft fare home. Have your employees submit it just like they would a business expense for travel. Along those same lines, consider the option of paying for your employees to stay in a nearby hotel if they cannot drive home safely.
“It doesn’t take much to get pulled over for a DUI in Maryland,” said Albers. “People think they have to be swerving all over the road to get pulled over. Sometimes, your brake light is out. That’s enough for the police to stop you.”
At a minimum, a business should take some steps to minimize the possibility that an employee might leave an office holiday party under the influence.
For example, make sure you serve food and have plenty of water and soft drinks available. Don’t offer an open bar and have a cash bar only with a drink limit. Additionally, don’t serve hard liquor, and limit the bar to beer and wine only.
Advising employees to drink responsibly and to plan for their transportation home in advance if they intend to drink, in many cases, isn’t enough to prevent a DUI arrest.
Joan Webb Scornaienchi is executive director of HC Drugfree, in Columbia. She can be contacted at 443-325-0040 or via www.hcdrugfree.org.