Tis’ the season. Around this time every year, businesses rent swanky venues to celebrate the season and reflect on the past year’s successes. However, not many businesses realize the holiday work party dangers. Become informed to prevent lawsuits from arising as a result of this year’s company holiday party.
Liability of Serving Alcohol
Many are unaware of the liability risk for serving alcohol. This applies not just around the holidays but year round. Did you know that employers face possible liability for injuries drunken employees cause after a holiday function? It’s referred to as host liability and it comes from state law. Mostly, these laws are applicable to businesses selling alcohol such as restaurants or a bar. However, some states have extended this as a legal duty of hosts. According to the website Safetyxhange.org, “In these states, courts have held employers liable for serving alcohol to a minor or an employee who becomes intoxicated and injures himself or someone else.”
For example, an employee was drinking at a holiday party in Ontario. She decided to drive her car home in a snowstorm. She crashed it and then filed a lawsuit against her company. The court awarded her $300,000, which is only a sliver of the $1.2 million damage. She was awarded less because of what the judge called her “own fault in the matter”. Still, employers have a duty to monitor the alcohol consumption of employees at company functions.
Ways to Reduce Liability
Here are some ways to manage these liability risks if you’re going to be serving alcohol at an event.
- Monitor alcoholic intake per guest (and their intoxication level). Consider getting a bartender who is only serving a limited number of drinks per person. Designate a couple of individuals to monitor others, based on legal limits in determining intoxication.
- Provide safe rides home. Coordinate with a cab service to be on hand, designate a few people to drive sober or encourage employees to carpool with as many people as they can so that liability isn’t on the company.
- Sexual Harassment. We’ve all heard the speeches and HR presentations on what is appropriate in the workplace. Adding alcohol can present a dangerous situation and company employees in the past haven’t been shy in filing suits against unwanted or inappropriate behavior.
Keep these considerations in mind this holiday season. You should always make sure your business is protected from litigation issues.
We recommend that the business owner or party organizer read the Bloomberg Businessweek article, “Planning Office Holiday Parties without Lawsuits.”
If you are facing a lawsuit as a result of a holiday party, contact us at (312) 223-1699.