Employers who serve alcohol to employees for instance in holiday parties are liable to major risks regardless of whether they are company organised meetings or meeting organised by employees. The United States Department of Labour stipulates that employees who serve alcohol are liable to the legal implications for what may befall the alcohol consumers (the employees). notes that some companies have been heavily penalized after being held liable for serious and sometimes fatal accidents in legal cases where the court would have ruled that employees attended parties or gatherings within the precincts of their employments where in thy were subjected to alcohol. According to the United States Department of Labour Law and Stipulations, when gatherings are held in work or employment premises or in the course of work hours employees who are hurt may be eligible to workers’ compensation fund. What has to be noted is that the statute elucidates that this applies regardless of whether the gatherings in which employees are subjected is an official company gathering or an impromptu gathering organised by the workers.
In a certain extreme incident, a Chicago-area boutique worker suffered a spinal injury at company holiday party in a particular local bar. The worker was said to be dancing with her boss’ husband when a drunken man tried to lift her and twirl her body around. Accidentally the employee dropped from the grip of the inebriated man and hit the floor headlong. Sine the accident occurred at a company organised and sponsored holiday party the court ruling was based on that the incident occurred in the scope of employment as defined in the United States Labour Law. As such the injured worker was able eligible to collect a multi-million dollar employees’ company settlement. This goes so far to illuminate the extent of legal and litigation risks to which companies or employers are exposed when they subject workers to alcohol in any context that can be classified as “within the scope of employment” by United States Labour law. In tandem with the foregoing state that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) very year companies or employers pay more than $9 billion for accidents involving employees who would have been involved in accidents or alcohol influence related injury. Miller, J. (2007), has warned that since Liquor Liability Laws different a great span from one state to another it the responsibility of employers and every business practitioner to check with the liquor laws specifications in their state and know what they are entitled as well as liable to.
Miller, J. (2007) notes that the common trend is showing that many employers are reducing and cutting back on the company organised events like holiday parties as way of avoiding getting into liabilities. This they are doing to save money and avoid the hustle and frustrations that come with the legal and litigation liabilities in cases where an employee would have been injured within the what the United States Labour Law Defines as “Within the scope of employment”. Companies especially with hose employers keenly interested in organizing any social events or any kind of events for employees in which employees will be subjected to alcohol have to familiarise themselves with tips and guidelines offered by the Department of Labour law on office celebrations. The United States Depart of Labour law gives about nine tips for the handling of office celebrations. The tips are tailored to help reduce the risk of employers through the ensuring of certain aspects. Norman S (2008), notes that the guidelines come in handy as they incorporate an extension of workplace substance abuse policy to enlist any employment related happenings and all employer organised and sponsored parties. These include office celebration and any other office functions as well.
The United States Department of Labour Law offers the following to tips of the conducting and handling of office celebrations.
- Honesty with employees. On their first tip the department advises employers to ensue that workers are in the know of their workplace substance abuse policy and also that the policy entails the use of alcoholic beverages in any work environs and company social functions and gatherings
- Post the Policy. On this dimension the department advises business practitioners or employers to make sure those employees are given adequate understanding of the policy that governs conduct in company function and events. The department advises management to make use of channels like bulleting boards, email as well as fronts like paycheck envelops to communicate the company’s policy as well as concerns over conduct in work related events.
- Reinvent the Office Party concept. Here the department challenges employers to think outside the box and consider other company event form which foster more responsible conduct and less risk. Example give here are gatherings like indoor carnival, group outings to places like amusement parks, etc.
- Make sure employees know their part to play. The department advises on this paradigm that employers willing to organise workplace related events for their employers have a responsibility of making sure that employees know that they are welcome to come and drink alcohol in an organised event but that the employees are also made aware of their critical role of behaving responsibly.
- Make it the office party of choice. The department here encourages workplace events or party organisers to ensure that there are more non-alcoholic beverages available. This may have little influence on the choice of what to drink on the part of alcohol drinkers but serves mush to present a responsible spirit of the party or event organisers.
- Eat and be Merry! On the sixth tips the department encourages workplace party or function organisers to serve foods rich in proteins and starch , food which will stay longer in the stomach and avoid serving salty and greasy or sweet food which make people more thirsty and stimulate a craving for alcohol. These slow down the assimilation of alcohol into the blood stream and such reduces the impact and influence on the drinkers. This subsequently is envisaged to reduce the amount of risk and further liability company may be subjected to in eventualities of workplace events related accidents.
- Designate Party Managers. On this aspects the depart urges employers to remind their management that even in a company party or social even the managers are still expected to implement he company’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.
- Arrange alternative transportation. This is a very important tip by Department of Labour as it will enable the company to eliminate the risk of letting employees drive off drunk. By placing all employees in one-transportation mode the risk of individual workplace related accidents is eliminated. The department encourages company event organizer to anticipate need for alternative transportation and encourage workers to settle for sick as the best option especially to those who would consume alcohol.
- Serve none for the road. On the last aspect the department strongly advises party overseers to make sure that no alcohol is served just before the party or the event ends. This will minimize the risk o employees driving off drunk and thus more likely to get involved in road accidents.
Having mentioned the tips offered by the United States Department of Labour, It is imperative for employers or any parties that may be liable to workplace related accident risks to familiarise and apply state laws that govern the use of alcoholic beverages provided in workplace gatherings and events.
Simon H, (2008) states that employers must fully understand the state laws that pertain to the use of alcohol in workplace events as well the subsequent legal responsibilities that come with the sue of these in work place events.” The warning raised by the legal expert is that information given by the Department of Labour including the tips on how to conduct office celebrations and events must not be used as substitute for needed legal advice and counseling. He further state that employers have to seek to legal advise on what steps can be take to address potential legal implications, risk and liability of workplace related accidents culminating from the subjection of employees to alcohol.
Simon H, (2008) notes that there is no waiver that can eliminate the employers’ liability to the legal risks and implications of subjecting employees to alcohol in workplace events and functions. He notes that employers who subject their workers to alcohol in workplace related events are just as liable to the risk and legal implications of serving alcohol just as the bar owners. One way of enforcing the company’s policy on drug and alcohol abuse is to make employees sign a copy of the policy just before the event. This in perspective will reinforce the sense of obligation and responsibility on the part of the employees as this will minimise the likelihood of irresponsible resulting from the consumption of alcohol since workers are reminded through the signing of the policy of the serious implication of contravening the policy.
Legal advisor Keith Ewing, (2005) advises that the best tactic to reduce liability make use of insurance facilities such as the dram shop insurance or other related facilities such as liquor liability insurances specifically for planned workplace celebration or functions. The expert cites that many alcohol servers have the cove of such insurance policies and are at liberty to add companies to their list for small fee of less than $400. The expert advises the companies or employers washing to have typical insurance coverage of the potential liabilities of subjecting their employees to alcohol in work related gathering s can find out from their insurance companies to know of the their insurance has allowance to add the coverage of such employee alcohol abuse risk. He cites that most insurance companies have such facilities which can be made use particularly for the particular day when a workplace event is set. It is also worthy noting that because of the legal implications of subjecting employees to alcohol in workplace gatherings most private venues are not at liberty to offer their venue or their premises for holding of such evens if a copy of an insurance policy covering related liabilities is not availed to them.
Shawn Smith (2008) presents that the all important end of year of company celebration parties do not necessarily have to be done away with. He cites that the kind of events are essential joyous occasions sometimes entailing the critical aspect o rewarding employees for year’s great performances, etc. He however warns that a poorly planned party or workplace event will culminate in serious legal liabilities culminating from the ills of alcohol intake such as harassments, injuries, and fatalities in some worst case scenarios. He cites despite the chronicled and unchronicled risk of handling workplace events and functions a survey conducted the Society for Human Resources management indicates that 83 percent of companies still hold such events. This is an indication that many companies still view the handling of such events as beneficial.
Shawn Smith (2008) asserts that many companies do not understand the risk associated with serving alcohol in company or workplace function and events. He also mentions that many companies that are aware of legal liabilities attached to subjecting employees to alcohol are not adequately informed of the extent of the legal implications of assuming such a decision on eth part of the employer. According to Shawn Smith (2008) there are various kinds of lawsuits that hold employers liable to for damage or any kind of injuries related to the use of alcohol in workplace events. Miller, J. (2007) states that the lawsuits are based on the legal theories enlisting negligence, vicarious liability or statutory liability and the aspects of injuries to workers that may be classified as falling under worker’s compensation laws.
Shawn Smith (2008) states that in the vicarious liability Courts hold that a business practitioner or employers is vicariously liable for the actions and conduct of an intoxicated employee under the theory of respondeat superior. In the real applications of the conceptual framework defining the theory, the action are viewed as limited to contexts where in the worker is acting within the “scope of their employment” as the United States Department of Labour defines or in the premise of where the worker is direct or indirect control of the employer. The salient factors and variable that legal process highly consider in handling such cases and establishing whether the situations incorporate the fact of whether the employer requested or required that the worker be present in the event, and whether the employers shouldered the expenses of the event and finally, whether or not the employer envisaged a business benefit from the event.
On the statutory liability dimension Keith Ewing, (2005), mentions that various States in the US have enacted civil damages or dram shop laws which confer the right of action to the injured individuals harmed by intoxicated persons against the provider (furnisher) of alcohol that would have led to the intoxication. It is important for employers to note the previously the statute had been exclusively applicable to commercial providers of alcohol but since May 2005 the legislation changed to incorporate non commercial providers of alcohol. The legal expert advises that the best away to avoid the liabilities is to avoid serving alcohol in company events. He warns, “Should the company decide to serve alcohol, then management must make sure that step are taken to prevent guest from getting drunk and that all legal steps to shield the company from the severe liabilities are put in place.” (Keith Ewing 2005).
Miller, J. (2007), Business Law Today, McGraw Hill, New York.
Norman S,(2008), Selwyn’s Law of Employment Oxford University Press.
Simon H, (2008) Honeyball and Bowers’ Textbook on Employment Law Oxford University Press.
Keith Ewing, (2005), Aileen McColgan and Hugh Collins, Labour Law, Cases, Texts and Materials Hart Publishing, WV.
Simon, D. & Gillian M., (2005), Labour Law Hart Publishing, WV.
Shawn, S., (2008), Labor and Employment: Workplace Warzone, Georgetown University Thesis.