For companies looking to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at work, March 17th can be tricky ground. The holiday, a Catholic feast day for the patron saint of Ireland, has evolved into a celebration of Irish heritage and culture in the United States. Every year, Chicago dyes its river green; New York hosts a parade for 2 million spectators; and Hoboken, New Jersey, gets flooded with publicly urinating binge-drinkers. According to Time, St. Pat's is the drunkest holiday behind New Year's Eve.
A holiday that's as closely tied to four leaf clovers as four pints of Guinness can provide plenty of opportunities for potential legal problems. In-house counsel should be particularly cautious if their office is planning on hosting a St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Driving the Snakes Out of the Office Party
Whether you're eating roast beef and cabbage while singing "Danny Boy," or sipping Irish whiskey in the break room, an office party without proper precautions can expose you to unnecessary liability.
With any office event, serving alcohol can often increase the likelihood of bad behavior. If alcohol is going to be served, be sure that your company has a substance abuse policy in place and remind employees about it beforehand. Using drink tickets can also be a way to limit individual's alcohol consumption. Consider using licensed bartenders and instructing them and supervisors to keep an eye out for over-served individuals.
After the Party, There's No After-Party
If your office party keeps going well after the office has shut down, you may be subject to liability. Workers may feel pressured to go along when a supervisor invites them out to a bar or strip club afterward, and the company may be held responsible should something go wrong. Make sure that your event has a clear endpoint and instruct supervisory staff against pressuring subordinates to continue the party afterwards. Allowing staff members to invite their families to an office party can help keep everyone on their best behavior and ensure that people head home at the end.
It Is Saint Patrick's Day...
Though most Saint Patrick's Day celebrations are thoroughly secular, it's important to keep in mind that the holiday can be closely tied to religion and ethnicity. To avoid any potential complications with anti-discrimination laws, corporate counsel may also want to take steps to avoid specific religious affiliations and make sure that pride in one's heritage doesn't spill over into intolerance of others.