As we roll into December, many employers will be hosting an office holiday party for their employees. While these events are a great way to thank employees for their hard work in the past year, they can also open up employers to serious liability.
At a holiday party where alcohol is being served, the employer may be held liable for the actions of an employee at the event itself as well as long after the employee has left the event. Employers have a duty to take reasonable care to safeguard its employees from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect employees from future events, for instance, if it is reasonably foreseeable that the employee will continue to consume alcohol after he or she leaves the event and attempt to drive home. In addition, the employer may be liable for the harm caused by the employee to third parties.
There are some simple steps that an employer can take to avoid these risks:
- (1) Provide employees with a limited number of drink tickets instead of having an open bar
- (2) Provide a good variety of alcohol free drink alternatives
- (3) Provide employees with taxi chits or another alternative form of transportation and discourage employees from driving home from the event
- (4) If an employee appears intoxicated, take steps to ensure that they take a taxi home
- (5) Host the holiday party away from the office at a location licensed to serve alcohol
- (6) Discourage the consumption of large amounts of alcohol at the event