December 1, 2017

Posted: December 1, 2017 |

Is Serving Alcohol At Your Holiday Party A Liability?

Serving alcohol at your company holiday party can be a liability and can often bring more than just intoxicated high jinks. Celebrating the season can sometimes mean crossing the line — ranging from offending a coworker to violating the law. Partygoers who overindulge could cause an accident at or after the party and/or they may act in ways that violate your harassment policy. 

There are several steps you can take to protect both yourself and your employees. Here are some practices that would be wise to consider: 

Protecting Your Company and Your Employees Ahead of Time 
  • Employers may be liable for employee misconduct and negligence when the employee is acting “in the course and scope of employment.” Be certain to make these kinds of events optional and clearly communicate in writing attendance is neither expected nor required.
  • Don’t plan to have any work-related activities at the event. To further support the non-work nature of the event, hold it off-site and outside of regular business hours and allow employees to bring a guest.
  • Set expectations around respectful behavior and encourage employees to always drink responsibly. Remind employees of your company policies including harassment and other conduct policies that will apply at the event.
  • Have a plan to ensure no minors or visibly intoxicated attendees are served alcohol. If possible, hire professional servers or hold the event at a staffed facility that will, as part of their job, politely refuse to serve anyone they perceive has had enough to drink.
Protecting Your Company and Your Employees At the Event 
  • Provide ample food and non-alcoholic beverages, both for safety reasons and so non-drinkers know you've given them consideration.
  • Offer a cash bar where employees purchase the alcohol. This will reduce the likelihood of a claim that the employer provided alcohol directly to employees. It will also very likely reduce consumption.
  • Provide employees with a set number of drink tickets, to ensure each attendee is limited in the number of alcoholic drinks they will be served.
  • Plan for how employees who have been drinking will get home. This may involve providing Uber or Lyft, taxies, or public transit options at no cost to the employees, arranging for group transportation, or encouraging employees to designate a driver at the beginning of the event.
  • Even if your first choice is not to provide taxi service, don’t think twice about calling and paying for one if an intoxicated employee has no way home other than driving themselves. To facilitate this, someone from management can be designated to stay until the end and maintain their own sobriety to ensure that everyone gets home safely.

While there’s no guarantee these steps will eliminate all the risks, they can certainly help reduce liability and help your employees celebrate the year and their achievements safely and responsibly. 

Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie provide reliable legal representation you may need to protect your rights and we can advise you whether or not an accident may warrant legal action. We offer a free consultation, so call us at 949-752-7474 to schedule your free consultation today.