Employee Time Off on Election Day

Ready or not (and aren’t we all ready?), Tuesday, November 8th is Election Day. As the date approaches, it is important to ensure that your company’s Voting Leave Policy is up-to-date and your employees are aware of their rights under the law.

Federal Law protects a citizen’s right to vote, but it is state law that dictates how much time off (if any) an employer is required to give an employee so that they can vote. Now’s the time to review your current Voting Leave Policy to make sure it’s up to snuff. To help with this endeavor, we’ve created a quick list of the laws surrounding this subject for some of the biggest states in the U.S.:

CPeople voting in polling placealifornia

Employees are entitled to take up to two hours without loss of pay to vote if they don’t have sufficient time outside of working hours. The time must be taken at the beginning or the end of a shift and must be requested ahead of time. Employers must post a notice of employees’ rights to take time for voting.


With prior notice to an employer, employees may take up to two paid hours off of work for the purpose of voting if they do not have at least 3 hours available to vote outside of their normal working hours. The employer may specify the hours the employee will take off, but the period must fall at the beginning or end of the work period if the employee so requests.


Employers are prohibited from discharging or threatening to discharge employees who vote in elections. Likewise, employers are prohibited from discharging or threatening to discharge employees who refuse to vote. Some local ordinances provide employees time off without pay to vote on an election day.


The State of Illinois grants employees 2 hours of time off to vote if an employee’s working hours on the day of the election begin less than 2 hours after the opening of the polls and end less than 2 hours before the closing of the polls. The employee must request leave prior to election day and the employer may specify the hours in which the employee can be absent.


Employers must permit voters time off to vote during the period of two hours after the polls open in their district. This law only applies to employees who work in mercantile, manufacturing, or mechanical establishments.

New York

Employees who do not have 4 consecutive non-working hours between polls opening and closing, and who do not have “sufficient” non-working time to vote, are entitled to up to 2 hours paid leave to vote. Employees must request the leave between 2 and 10 days before Election Day. The employer can specify whether it be taken at beginning or end of shift. Employers must post this rule conspicuously 10 business days prior to election.


Employers are prohibited from knowingly refusing to permit employees to be absent to vote on an election day or penalizing or threatening to penalize employees who go to the polls to vote on election day. The exception to this is when the polls are open for at least two hours outside of the employee’s scheduled working hours.


Employers must allow employees to be absent to vote in a political election for up to three consecutive hours while the polls are open if they request time off before the election day. Employers may decide the time for the absence and are not entitled to pay non-exempt employees for the time they are absent from work.

New Overtime Regulations: What you need to know

Gretchen-Van-VlymenStratEx’s Gretchen Van Vlymen recently contributed to a SHRM article written by Dana Wilke, The Nuts and Bolts of Complying with the New Overtime Regulations. Click here for the full article, but here are a few highlights:

  • The annual salary threshold for employees exempt from overtime pay will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 on December 1st.
  • Gretchen reports it is taking our HR Account Managers at StratEx from eight to 24 hours with each client to navigate through the new regulations and implement the changes necessary to be compliant with the rule. The DOL estimated it would take one hour per company.
  • Hospitality and restaurant companies can be particularly tricky to figure out, with variable or unpredictable hours, split roles and other considerations.
  • Paycheck deductions tied to benefits may need to be reviewed and updated if benefit offerings are affected based on employee exemption statuses.

If you have questions about the new overtime regulations and how they may affect your employees’ exemption statuses, StratEx can help you navigate this, and other tricky HR and Payroll related topics. Contact us now for more information.

Do Dogs in the Office Make us More Productive?

img_3876-1Working in an office can become very routine. The same office. The same desk. The same faces. Well… what if there were new faces? New, furry, cute faces.

Take Your Dog To Work Day (TYDTWD) is a great way to “shake up” a routine day. It’s held each year on the Friday following Father’s day, which makes today, June 24th, the 18th annual TYDTWD.

Some offices love the idea of dogs in the office so much that they allow it on a daily basis. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey in 2015 that found 8 percent of U.S. employers allow dogs in the work place. This statistic has gone up 3 percent since their 2008 survey.
Whether it’s their fluffiness, companionship, or sloppy kisses, there is no doubt that dogs can bring happiness to the office. They can help reduce stress, increase job satisfaction, improve camaraderie, and even encourage longer work hours. Happy workers make for a happy work environment.

Bringing dogs to work can even attract a younger workforce. Millennials are projected to make up almost half of the workforce by 2020, according to Stifel Equity Research. In addition, they will soon be the largest pet-owning cohort, surpassing baby-boomers. Like most pet-owners, these 19-to-35-year-olds view their animals as not only their best friend, but family as well.

Amazon, Etsy, Google, Bissell, Clif Bar and Petco are just a few examples of companies today that embrace this idea. CNBC spoke to the manager of culture and engagement at Etsy, Sarah Starpoli, who said:

“Millennials make up a lot of our workforce. As the population has increased in our offices, the dogs have grown with us. People want it. People know about it when they come in and are hired.”

TYDTWD_2In order for animals, employees and visitors to the workplace to remain safe and happy, a policy should be formed with some guidelines. Here are some suggestions to consider when creating and implementing a policy:

[slideshare id=63392957&doc=slidesharebyptwd-160623205632]

These suggestions mostly pertain to allowing employees’ personal pets in the office. Some employers may be hesitant to the idea of having multiple creatures in the office, or it may not make sense with the type of work happening in the work environment. However, that isn’t the only option to having animals in the workplace. Benefits can still be seen by just getting a company fish for everyone to enjoy. Nemo (or Dory!) is an easy way to brighten the office after years of the same routines.

It may be too late to join the official Take Your Dog To Work Day happening today, but it could start a conversation at your office to determine if it could be right for you. Hopefully, with the suggestions for a policy above, you’ll be reaping the rewards of having a furry faced co-worker soon.

Other sources:




The Ripple Effect of Minimum Wage Ordinances

img_3876-1On Thursday, April 14th, groups of labor protesters walked the city streets of Chicago. Their demand: raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Protests like these continue to impact the trends of City and State minimum wage increases across the country.

So, how do the growing demands of groups like these impact small businesses, customers and job seekers alike?

Let’s take a look.

First, here is a quick breakdown of three recently passed minimum wage ordinances: the City of Chicago, the State of California, and three different ordinances throughout the State of New York.

Effective Date

Non-Tipped Employees

Tipped Employees
Current $10.00 $5.45
1-Jul-16 $10.50 $5.95
1-Jul-17 $11.00 Increases with CPI
1-Jul-18 $12.00 Increases with CPI
1-Jul-19 $13.00 Increases with CPI
1-Jul-20 Increases with Consumer Price Index (CPI) Increases with CPI
Effective Date

26 or More Employees
25 or Fewer Employees
1-Jan-17 $10.50 $10.00 (current rate)
1-Jan-18 $11.00 $10.50
1-Jan-19 $12.00 $11.00
1-Jan-20 $13.00 $12.00
1-Jan-21 $14.00 $13.00
1-Jan-22 $15.00 $14.00
1-Jan-23 $15.00 $15.00
New York City: Effective Date
11 or More Employees

10 or Fewer
31-Dec-16 $11.00 $10.50
31-Dec-17 $13.00 $12.00
31-Dec-18 $15.00 $13.50
NY Employers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties: Effective Date
31-Dec-16 $10.00
31-Dec-17 $11.00
31-Dec-18 $12.00
31-Dec-19 $13.00
31-Dec-20 $14.00
31-Dec-21 $15.00
NY Employers in remaining part of State:
Effective Date
31-Dec-16 $9.70
31-Dec-17 $10.40
31-Dec-18 $11.10
31-Dec-19 $11.80
31-Dec-20 $12.50
1-Jan-21 Rate will increase to $15.00 on an indexed schedule to be set by the Director of the Division of Budget (DOB) in consultation with the Department of Labor.


It is probably too early to say who will be impacted the most by such legislation. A growing concern for small-businesses located outside of the City of Chicago may be whether they can afford to compensate employees to compete with the Chicago market, especially as the minimum wage continues to increase. On the opposite end of the spectrum, small businesses, within the city limits of Chicago, may find themselves asking whether they can afford to continue operations in the city. This in turn, may drive businesses to consider relocating jobs.


Last summer, one of my clients provided feedback they had received from reputable employment agencies, Pro Staff and AIG: there was a shortage of available seasonal workers. They attributed this shortage to employees that were not as willing to work for wages below Chicago’s $10 per hour minimum wage.

That leaves us with the question:

“Will people be willing to work for a lower minimum wage in surrounding areas, whether that be Chicago’s suburbs, or in the surrounding states of California and New York, knowing that they may be able to find employment nearby for a higher wage?”

If suburban companies continue to see a decline in available workers, how will those companies respond …Increase their labor costs? Offer employees other forms of compensation? Raise price of goods?

HiringI would be remiss not to mention the arguments behind these recent minimum wage increases. One primary argument is that this addresses the cost-of-living increases; Chicago city officials estimate that more than 400,000 Chicago workers will benefit for this reason alone. In addition, proponents for raising the federal minimum wage argue it would increase economic activity, reduce poverty as well as government welfare spending, and spur job growth.

Economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago predicted that a $1.75 rise in the federal minimum wage would increase aggregate household spending by $48 billion the following year, thus boosting GDP and leading to job growth; however, such labor increases may end up of having the opposite effect on workers and job seekers, as job-creation may begin to halt.

In certain industries, they already have.

According to an article posted on Investor’s Business Daily, recent Labor Department data shows that job creation is actually on the decline, at its slowest pace in at least five years, specifically in the leisure and hospitality sector. Chicago had their slowest year of job growth in the leisure and hospitality sector since 2009. Employment gains from October through December of 2015 averaged less than half the pace seen in 2014 at just 1.1 percent. In addition, increasing labor costs may drive businesses to increase their prices, if they wish to continue to seek profits, which in turn may negatively impact the consumer. Specifically in the fast-food industry, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago stated that if minimum wage is increased, fast-food restaurants would pass almost 100% of their increased labor costs on to consumers.

There’s no doubt that the increase of minimum wage will create a ripple effect felt by customers, job seekers, and employers.

Employers, particularly small-businesses located in areas near Chicago, California and New York, should begin analyzing whether to compensate their employees to match the local minimum wage hikes, especially if the trend of “employees not-as-willing to work for a lower wage” heightens and leads employees to migrate to companies and or locations that will.

Violence in the Workplace: Act Don’t React

“We are like a family at the office.”

“We conduct background checks, so we don’t have to worry.”

“That’s so sad, but it will never happen here.”

How often do you hear those phrases at work?

Something that is probably not mentioned: Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.

Contrary to what that last statement might have you believe, I am not a “Debbie Downer” type of person. Admittedly, before I started this project, violence in the workplace is not something I thought about. I enjoy going to work every day! I don’t want to imagine something bad taking place here!

Learning that statistic made me realize, however, that it is an issue we all need to be taking seriously. For the “numbers” people who want a little more detail… Out of 4,679 individuals who unfortunately passed away in 2014 due to a work-related injury, 403 of those deaths were homicides. I don’t know about you, but that freaked me out. That number should be zero, not 403!

This is not the Wild Wild West, folks.

So now that we’re on the same page and know the gravity of violence in the workplace, let’s talk about what can actually be done about it.

That number can certainly go down if employers put some definitive processes in place. Like FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Being afraid of talking about violence or its causes will not make it go away, but rather, if you acknowledge the possibility and preemptively do what you can to prevent violence, you can make a difference in your workplace.

After reading many opinions on the topic, I’ve boiled it down to 5 main action items that can help you find some Zen in this kooky world we find ourselves in:

1. Zero Tolerance Policy
wpv-70-percent-no-programWhen is the last time you took a look at your handbook? Maybe when you started your business or when a new HR Director came in? Do you know where the document is saved on your computer? Let’s wipe the dust off and take another look. All handbooks should have a policy that clearly states zero tolerance for violence. Be sure to provide a definition of what your company constitutes as violence. According to the Department of Labor, workplace violence is defined as any sort of act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. While providing more detail is preferred, especially when it comes to topics of harassment, that would be a great starting point for your handbook.

I would also suggest laying out the reporting process in your handbook, so that employees are familiar with what they should do if they suspect that violence is occurring or may occur. I know that it might seem like common sense that violence or harassment should be reported to a supervisor or human resources manager, but employees might fear retaliation or even provoking the offender. Hammer out your processes, so that if a hammer flies through your door, the wrongdoer will not be surprised that they’re being let go for destruction of company property.

2. Discipline Training and Documentation
What are your standard processes for coaching employees? In any industry, it is a smart idea to have management document performance discussions, especially in regards to coaching conversations. Additionally, train management to communicate misconduct immediately to HR and take the necessary disciplinary action, up to and/or including separation. The final piece to this, which I cannot stress enough, is consistency. I mean this in two ways. First, do not change the standard based on the employee. For example, if you have a 5-minute grace period for timeliness, you cannot write up only one employee for being 2 minutes late. It looks like you are singling them out (and deep down, you might be). Second, make sure to document every incident. If you have an employee who displays performance issues (in concurrence with warning signs, which we will discuss below) and you have documented the incidents, you will be able to separate before a more dramatic incident occurs. If you do not have documentation in place, you might not notice a pattern of behavior, especially if there is supervisor turnover.

3. Open Door Policy
Think of the Three’s Company theme song. How comfortable do your employees feel coming to you about issues? Will they come right up and knock on your door? And if they do, are you ready and available to speak with them? I am not advocating for a lax office structure, as that doesn’t work for every industry and being too lax can lead to other issues. However, employees need to feel comfortable coming forward with issues and know who to contact regarding their concerns. Show that you are never too important to listen to the people who work hard for you day in and day out.

And listening is just the first step; part of acknowledging concerns is investigating them thoroughly. Some of you are probably thinking, “Oh no, if I do that, I am going to turn into a counselor and every little disagreement is going to end up in my office.” If employees know that you are going to investigate issues brought to your attention, most likely they will learn what is important enough to be reported. Maybe the solution is having office hours once a week. Of course, there will always be that one person who takes advantage, but don’t alienate the rest of your employees because of it.

feature_900x55054. Know the Warning Signs
So, I know a lot of HR professionals who received their first degree in Psychology, and the longer I am in the field, the more I understand the correlation. Reading people is a basic piece of our job, and it’s something that I suggest you train your management teams on as well. It is important in terms of gauging morale, sorting out interview truths or lies, and, in this case, recognizing when a threat exists. Here are some of the basic warning signs that someone is violent or might be considering perpetrating violence:

  • Easy to anger
  • Does not interact well with coworkers
  • Resistant to change or direction from leadership
  • Talks about weapons, access to weapons, or even discusses bringing them to work
  • Paranoia, thinks people are out to get him/her
  • Erratic behavior, dramatic mood swings
  • Has a history of violence or making threats
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse

Now, please do not go on a witch hunt and terminate all employees who have displayed one of these characteristics to one person on one occasion. We do not want to discriminate against an employee because they demonstrate a quality on this list. We should always complete a thorough investigation and follow the discipline guidelines. If an employee seeks assistance or shares information regarding an issue, provide them with any assistance possible in regards to how it affects the working environment and resources for them to utilize outside of the workplace. That being said, keep your employees safe. For example, if an employee has such a severe mental health disorder that they cannot work with others without a visceral reaction, you might be justified in separating that employee. Employers cannot be forced to accommodate a disability if it creates an unsafe workplace for other employees.

5. Safety Action Plan
While all of the above mentioned points could be considered a part of a preventative safety plan, let’s think about what is actually going to occur in your office if a crisis happens. Do you have a point person in charge of safety training and drills? Are your leaders trained in how to recognize escalating situations? Do your employees know where the emergency exits are located? In an office setting, you might want to consider increased security of admittance. In the service industry, as basic as it sounds, you need to be aware of your surroundings and any strange behavior perpetrated by patrons or other non-employees. Put a formal plan in place because you know what happens when you assume…

This is where it might also be helpful to think about internal versus external situations and how you handle the two differently. Internal would mean that the incident is contained to the workplace including the cause or driving factors behind it, such as two employees getting into a fist fight. External would be an incident involving one or more employees that began outside of the workplace, but ends up affecting the workplace. For example, an employee is in an abusive relationship, and after one particularly bad argument, the partner or spouse comes into the workplace to harass the employee. The warning signs and the ways in which you would treat these situations would be different, but you can establish an overarching process that will guide you through both.

I hope that reading this made you feel empowered to breach this topic with your leadership teams and employees. The point is that the danger comes in when we are afraid to have open and honest dialogue about tough workplace issues like violence. Create an environment where employees are happy and can thrive. We all spend too much time at work to not feel safe and fulfilled.






Interns: To Pay or Not To Pay

Last year, we warned employers about the risk of hiring unpaid interns. This risk is still a very relevant issue, and more recently, the circuit courts have provided new factors to consider, in addition to the DOL’s existing six factor test.

The new factors, also known as the Primary Beneficiary Test, include seven factors that take a hard look at what the intern receives in exchange for their work. Here are the seven factors of the Primary Beneficiary Test to consider:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that there is no expectation of compensation.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

For each factor listed here, fulfilling each to the furthest extent possible would be the safest and most conservative route for employing an unpaid intern without incurring a wage and hour claim. In light of the rulings on recent cases, it is important for employers to keep these factors, as well as the DOL Six Factor Test in mind when implementing internship programs.


So, before bringing on an UNPAID intern, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. Does the company have the time and resources to supervise and manage this program to ensure that interns are not doing work that is outside of the outlined program?
    • Are your managers well trained and aware of how to supervise interns and manage the program?
  2. Are you providing more training, supervision and structure to the interns than you would to other employees?
  3. Is the company benefiting from the intern?
  4. Is the intern receiving educational experience?
  5. Has the company provided a written agreement outlining the internship arrangement?

But what about a paid intern?

Nervous looking man carrying tray of mugs (Image Source /via Getty Images)

If there are any doubts that your intern program meets the requirements outlined above, the safest route would be to pay your interns (at least minimum wage).  With that being said, there are still some important things to keep in mind with paid interns:

ACA Requirements

{Note: As of May 2017, these ACA requirements still stand, however, changes will likely be coming to these requirements in the future. We will be sure to update our blog when that happens.}

  • When counting employees to determine if you are an ALE (Applicable Large Employer) you must include all employees, including paid interns (unless they are considered seasonal employees). For smaller companies with a large intern program, this could be the difference in having to comply with the ACA’s Pay or Play provisions.
  • Your company will not be considered an ALE if your interns are Seasonal Employees and the following guidelines are met:
    • Your company has 50 Full Time Employees (including equivalents) for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year
    • The employees who are in excess of 50 are Seasonal Employees (interns), who work no more than 120 days in a year and perform services on a seasonal basis
  • Depending on the length of the internship and the “look-back measurement” period that your company has established, you may have to offer benefits to paid interns who are working full time (30 hours per week).


  • While you can set the expectation for the length of the internship, if the paid intern works for you for long enough to meet the eligibility requirements (this would vary by state law) then he/she may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits when the internship ends.

Paid Sick Leave

  • If you are in a state or city that requires Paid Sick Leave, your interns may be eligible depending on their length of employment and number of hours worked.
  • Many states require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees regardless of their classification as full time, part time, intern, etc.

So, as always with HR topics, it’s potentially complicated. If you have any questions as to whether an internship is putting your company at risk, you can contact us for help getting answers.

Happy internship season!

Must-do HR Updates for 2016

Happy New Year! Now, to begin your company’s new year as friction-free as possible, read through these must-do HR updates for 2016 and implement changes wherever they apply to you.

Review your handbooks

employeehandbook_pop_6467-resized-600The new year means changes to legislation and specific updates at the state level. Make sure to revise any updated policies or procedures in your handbook in order to remain compliant.

Paid Leaves

Be aware that several cities and states will have paid sick leave laws go into effect in 2016. For instance, Oregon’s new paid sick leave law takes effect on January 1, 2016 and Tacoma, WA has enacted paid sick leave legislation effective February 1, 2016.  San Diego, CA, Montgomery County, MD, and other various localities are following suit if they haven’t already, so it is important to reach out to your HR Account Manager regarding your location(s) and what state/local leave laws may be affecting your  location(s) and what state/local leave laws may be affecting your business.

Commuter Benefits

  1. New York City – Effective 1/1/2016 under the New York City Transit Ordinance, all New York City employers with 20 or more full-time employees are required to offer pre-tax transit benefits. There is a 6-month grace period on this ordinance, so penalties will not be sought until July 1st, 2016.
  2. Washington D.C. – Effective January 1st, 2016, the transit benefit requirement applies to employers with 20 or more employees. Employers can offer either a pre-tax transit benefit, an employer-paid benefit program with a transit pass or reimbursement of vanpool/bicycling costs, or employer-provided transportation in a vanpool or bus.

Many large companies across the country already offer commuter benefits. Looking ahead to 2016, more states will introduce new commuter benefit requirements, and more employers may begin to offer this benefit to their employees to keep up.

Ban the box

Be wary of “Ban the Box” or “Fair Chance” laws that are popping up in various cities and states in order to ensure that criminal history does not play a part in making hiring decisions for new hires until later in the recruitment process. These laws prohibit employers from asking criminal history questions on job applications or in initial interview situations (exact requirements depend on each state law or ordinance).

There are already over 100 cities and counties with these laws, and now in 18 states as well! For example, New York City’s Fair Chance law just went into effect in October 2015 and Oregon’s new Ban the Box law will take effect on January 1st, 2016. Please reach out to your HR account manager to discuss how to safe guard your hiring practices from potential liability associated with these new restrictions.

Labor Law Posters

Remember to order new federal and state labor law posters for 2016 if you haven’t updated them since last year. This will ensure all new and pertinent labor law notices are posted for your employees’ reference. Check out this link for more information. http://www.govdocs.com/

ACA Reporting Plan

ACARemember if you are an Applicable Large Employer (50 or more FT/FTE employees) you are required to report in 2016. Make sure you have a plan in place for the 1095-C form.

Important Update: The IRS recently released a notice delaying the deadline for furnishing the Affordable Care Act Form 1095-C and 1095-B statements to individuals by two months –from February 1 to March 31. The IRS also delayed the deadline for filling the statements with the IRS from February 29 to May 31 if filing by paper and March 31 to June 30, if filing electronically.

The notice also includes guidance to individuals who do not receive a 1095-C or 1095-B before they file the 2015 tax returns.

StratEx offers ACA reporting services, so please reach out to your HR Account Manager with further questions on this subject.

Pending Federal Legislation

There are several federal acts that are currently under review. Be on the lookout for final decisions or updates throughout the year. If you are a StratEx client, we will alert you as we are made aware of these decisions or updates.

  1. Working Family Flexibility Act – Amend the FLSA to provide compensatory time for employees in the private sector.
  2. EEOC Transparence & Accountability Act – The EEOC must maintain up-to-date information on its website regarding charges and actions.
  3. Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act – This act would guarantee 10 days paid vacation per year.
  4. Pay Workers a Living Wage Act – This would increase the Federal minimum wage.
  5. DOL updates regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – This act proposes an increase to the salary basis for exempt employees from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year. A yearly calculation would be implemented to update the salary basis. Other potential updates are including non-discretionary bonuses in the calculation of an employee’s salary and updates to the duties test. The DOL will likely release these updates early in 2016. Since the grace period to implement these changes will likely be brief, start by reviewing your current classifications and job descriptions to prepare for the application of any changes. For information from the DOL on this subject, you can reference this factsheet.

The new year and employment changes are coming– keep these things in mind and make updates wherever necessary to keep your company as friction-free as possible. And don’t hesitate to contact your HR Account Manager at StratEx with any questions on these, or any other HR topics.

Note: This blog post was written in tandem with Madeline McDonnell, StratEx HR Account Manager.

7 Steps to a Happy (for HR) Holiday Party

It’s the holiday season, which means your company may be hosting a party. Add some alcohol, and HR goes on high alert! With the input of Laner Muchin, our labor law partners, we’ve put together some quick tips on how to have a safe and happy holiday party that protects your company from the unexpected.

Step 1

Have someone else take responsibility for alcohol. If possible, hold the event at a restaurant, bar or, if at work, catered with bartenders. In each of these cases, the restaurant, bar, or catering company serving the alcohol is responsible for monitoring consumption, not the employer. Make sure to confirm that the venue or catering company has insurance.


Step 2

Protect the Company. Ask employees to sign a waiver acknowledging that they are consuming alcoholic beverages at their own risk and will not hold the company responsible for reckless behavior or unwelcome actions.

Step 3

Set expectations. Send a company-wide email prior to the party with a reminder about the sexual harassment and drug/alcohol policies in the employee handbook. Make sure to point out that explicit behavior will result in discipline up to and including termination.

Step 4

Minimize driving if possible. Arrange for ground transportation like a van or bus to take employees to/from the party.

officeparty3Step 5

Incentivize. Offer to pay a “safety bonus” to employees who volunteer to be designated drivers.

Step 6

Provide information for a back-up plan. Distribute a list of hotels in the area with contact information so employees can easily book a room to avoid drinking and driving.

Step 7

Purchase extra protection. If it’s going to be a large event, secure an insurance policy specifically for the event to avoid excess liability.

Implementing all seven steps may be going a bit overboard, but think about your company, your employees and the kind of holiday party you plan to throw. And then consider implementing the steps that will not only make your holiday party a safety success, but one that would make an HR professional relax and enjoy the party too.