Take Steps to Prevent Accidents at Company-Sponsored Holiday Parties
According to Lou Lehr, partner emeritus with Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Chicago and West Palm Beach, Fla., the number one potential problem that businesses face with holiday parties is liability under liquor laws.
"In some states, these laws are very strict," he said. "If a person is served alcoholic drinks at a company party on the premises and then injures himself or herself or someone else in an accident, the company could be held liability if the drinks contributed to their intoxication."
There are steps employers can take to ensure they are protected from potential areas of liability. When planning holiday parties, employers should:
--Not require employees to attend. Remind your employees that attendance is strictly voluntary.
--Set a party policy.
Because a winter party is a work activity, it should be treated as such. Have guidelines in place. This could be as simple as outlining employees' responsibilities, such as acceptable behavior, in your company's employee handbook.
--Examine the laws in your jurisdiction.
Applicable liquor laws can vary greatly by state. Make sure your corporate counsel checks to see under which conditions your business could be held liable and what liabilities may apply.
--Avoid or limit alcohol. If you supply alcohol, you may be legally responsible for the welfare of the employee if he suffers from a drink-induced accident, even if it occurs outside of the party. If it is not feasible to eliminate alcohol, limit the number of drinks permitted, the length of time when alcohol is served, or provide a cash bar. In addition, provide plenty of non-alcoholic alternative beverages. It may make the party not only safer, but also more convenient for those attending.
If you do serve alcohol, employers should look into obtaining insurance coverage. See whether you can purchase dram shop insurance or liquor law liability insurance to cover the event. If not, hold the celebration at a restaurant, bar or other establishment whose liquor law liability insurance would cover the event.
--Prevent drunk driving.
If you do serve alcohol, consider hiring taxis or other forms of transportation for the end of the night to minimize risks.
--Check the insurance coverage of anyone hired for the party. If you hire caterers, servers, bartenders, or anyone else to provide and serve drinks, it is crucial that you check to see whether they carry liability insurance that would cover any potential exposure for your business from the event.
December 2, 2008
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