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The Truth About Alcohol at Office Parties

‘Twas the night of the office party, and all through the houses,
Employees were getting ready, and so were their spouses.
Ties were knotted and straightened with care.
Women put on dresses and combed through their hair.

The children were ready, all showered and fed
And continued to play Xbox until it was time for bed.
A kiss on the cheek, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Then mom and dad departed and turned off the light.

When out of the driveway, they flew like a flash.
Excitedly, they drove to the holiday bash.
They arrived just in time and walked through the door
To find decorations hung from ceiling to floor.

Then, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a bar stocked with liquor, wine, and chilled beer.
They took less than a second to stop and think,
And like moths to a flame, headed straight for a drink.

More rapid than eagles, the drinks they came,
And they gulped, and they chugged, and they called them by name!
“Now Smirnoff! Now Cuervo! Now Jim Beam and Jack!
Now Baileys! Now Captain! Now Johnnie Walker Black!”

As they continued to drink, the night had turned late.
They’d already broken two glasses and a plate.
His vision was blurry and her head, how it spun.
The guests were now leaving; the party was done.

They thanked the host for a fabulous night.
He got in his car and drove out of sight.
It was but a moment, what seemed like a flash,
He veered from his lane and with another car crashed!

The policemen arrived; the sirens did wail.
He blew over the limit and they took him to jail.
The other driver was injured and called up his lawyer.
He sued both the driver and the host — his employer.

That night as he slept, he tossed in his bed
As the night constantly replayed in his head.
Sometimes things are not always as they seem.
He awoke and realized that it was but a dream.

Moral of the story
It’s that time of the year again — the time for Aunt Martha’s fruitcakes, jam-packed malls, and the always anticipated office holiday party. A holiday party is a good way to show appreciation for employees, to reward them for a job well done, or just to socialize. But what was only a dream for the man in the story can turn into a nightmare for employers.

While alcohol is a well-established part of social gatherings, excessive amounts of it can become a serious problem, especially when people get behind the wheel of a car.

Approximately 40 percent of all traffic fatalities are related to alcohol. Traditionally, only the person who was driving drunk could be liable for injuries caused to another person. Forty of the 50 states, however, have adopted Dram Shop Acts, which create liability for a social host or establishment. With those statutes in place, a host can be liable for injuries to a third person caused by an intoxicated guest.

Be sure to check your state and local laws to see what sort of liability your company might face if alcohol is served at a company function.

Holiday tips
Here are some suggestions for you to lessen the chance of being held liable for an employee’s drunkenness:

  1. Don’t serve alcohol. Making the party a family event can offset the lack of alcohol.
  2. Limit alcohol consumption. You can give each employee a specified number of drink tickets, usually two or three. Another approach could be to limit alcohol service to a certain period of time, such as the first hour of the party or one hour before dinner.
  3. Make employees give up their keys at the door. They can get them back only after a responsible person makes sure they’re sober and can drive home safely.
  4. Arrange for designated drivers or reimburse cab rides home.
  5. Hold the party at a hotel and offer complimentary or discounted rates on hotel rooms. That eliminates the need for employees to drive home.
  6. Avoid serving only appetizers. Serve meals rich in protein and starches to absorb alcohol.
  7. Don’t serve punches that hide the alcohol content. Sweet punches that mask the taste of alcohol often are consumed quickly because they taste like fruit punch. The alcohol tends to creep up and affect the person suddenly and unexpectedly.
  8. Throw the party on a weeknight so that employees are less likely to drink excessively.
    Following those tips can help you avoid a legal headache. Be sure to make this holiday season a safe and enjoyable one! It’s important to remember that the holiday season is one of cheer and shine, not beer and wine

Free HR Hero White Paper: Holidays in the Workplace: How to Navigate the Tricky Intersection of Religion, Celebration, and Bonuses

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