It’s that time of the year again. As the weather gets colder, people’s thoughts turn to planning holiday fun with family and friends. For many, this includes annual holiday office parties where we have a chance to spend time with co-workers outside the office and away from the stresses of our jobs. It seems that one constant is that almost everyone has a story about crazy things that happen at these events. And most of the horror stories involve someone drinking a little too much.
One of my first experiences with holiday office parties was for my wife’s work. The company she was working for decided to have the office party at the CEO’s house well outside the city where we lived at the time. All the employees drove out to the CEO’s house for a meal, white elephant gift exchange, and casino night. There was an open bar throughout the evening and many people drank heavily. While I don’t drink (which is rare for an attorney), I don’t have any issue with my friends and coworkers drinking at these gatherings and I enjoyed the evening, especially the casino portion. It is so much easier to win when everyone you are gambling against is intoxicated. But I had a problem when the evening was over and people who had been drinking heavily for the past few hours began grabbing their keys and walking out to their cars to drive home. Not only was that irresponsible on the part of the drivers, it was irresponsible on the part of the company.
One of the struggles an employer faces when organizing office parties is deciding on what the alcohol policy is going to be. There are many resources available for companies on how to minimize their liability exposure from office parties. But one good rule of thumb is that if the company is going to provide alcohol at the party, it should also provide a taxi or Uber service to take their employees home afterwards Having alternative transportation readily available after such events is not only the right thing to do, but it sends a clear message that the company takes drunk driving seriously, and is willing to reach into its pocketbook to protect its employees, as well as the general public.
Unfortunately, many companies do not follow this rule, and instances of drunk driving are always higher around this time of year. When accidents involving intoxicated employes happen, the people who are injured can seek compensation from the drunk driver and also the company that allowed its employee to drive drunk after a work function under respondeat superior. Even if the employer is just allowing a cash bar, there is potential liability for a clearly intoxicated employee causing an accident under the dram shop law.
If you are injured in an accident, make sure you get a lawyer you can trust to look into all the circumstances of the accident and get you the compensation you may be entitled to from everyone who is responsible for the accident.
By: Craig Valentine