Tis the season to be smart

As the holiday season is quickly approaching the issue of the Employer’s liability for accidents that can be traced back, even remotely to drinking at a holiday party hosted by the Employer or simply having a beer or two, or spiked Egg Nog is something you need to consider before a problem arises.

The law in this area is evolving and there are two Court cases that have found Employer’s partially liable for injuries suffered by an employee after leaving a company event.

In order to protect yourselves, here is a summary of tips taken from those cases which will help reduce your liability:

• revise internal policies and send a memo or e-mail before the event to all employees reminding them that attendance is voluntary, that they should not drink to excess, and that they should not drink and drive have a social responsibility policy and require employees to sign an acknowledgement
• put in place sufficient liability insurance
• hold the event at a public facility, which will assume some of the responsibility for monitoring alcohol consumption
• do not provide an open or unsupervised bar; hire professional bartenders, advise them not to serve employees who appear to be drunk, and instruct them to contact a designated company representative if there is a problem
• if the event is at a hotel, arrange rooms so that intoxicated employees may stay the night
• develop a system to monitor alcohol consumption and take positive steps to track how much employees are drinking, such as using drink tickets, the trading of which should be prohibited
• provide a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages
• stop serving alcohol at least two hours before the event’s end
• have security monitor employees as they are leave; for those employees suspected of being drunk, insist on retaining their car keys and arrange a taxi ride home or overnight accommodation
• make taxi slips available to employees as they leave

Following the above steps can help to limit your liability in the event of an incident. Remember, we’re not just talking about automobile accidents here, sexual harrassment and sexual assaults are also incidents that are at risk from social drinking at Office Parties.

Inga B. Andriessen
Senior Lawyer