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December 28, 2012

Holiday office parties

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‘Tis the season for office parties. Everyone enjoys a holiday party and some may enjoy it more than others. Before you decide to have that party at the office this year, you need to realize the risks your business takes on.
Did you know that if your employees drink at your office, drive home while under the influence and get in a wreck, your business is just as liable (if not more) as the employee?
In September, courts ruled that the the employer of Scott Hays was liable after Hays, 42, went to a bar in a company car, drove drunk and died in a single-car wreck. Hays’ family is now looking to sue the former employer for damages.
The lawsuit states that the owners of the business “knew or should have known” about Hays’ unsafe driving habits and they had several meetings and discussions about his drinking.
Just think what could happen to your business if you are not careful about your employees drinking at your office during a holiday party.
Also, you need to take into account that police officers will be out in full force looking for drunk drivers.
Missouri is a pure comparative fault state. Even if a person is partially responsible for the accident, a car accident victim can recover damages. Those damages are reduced based on the percentage of fault. Therefore, Hays’ family can claim damages if they are deemed partially liable for his accident (determined by the jury).
How can you protect your business from being liable for a drunk employee around the holidays?
1) Host your holiday party at a restaurant or a bar and grill rather than at the office – If drinking is involved, you want it to be off work premises.
2) Pay for the employee’s food but not their drinks – You do not want those 10 shots of whiskey from Bob the company drunk on your corporate credit card. Your employees will be glad you picked up a free meal.
3) Arrange for designated drivers or a cab service – Rather than allowing your employees to drink and drive, put them in the best position possible by arranging a sober driver.
4) Take notice of your employees that may be in trouble – The holidays are a stressful time and your employees may be hitting the bottle more during the winter season. Arrange for counseling to help them deal with their problems with words, not alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, the days of Ol’ Fezziwig’s Christmas party are over! Be responsible for your employees, even if they are careless and irresponsible for themselves.