Work is work. But it does not always have to feel that way. Company parties are a great way to employers and employees to connect with each other on a personal level and loosen up. With summer upon us, many Washington companies will be hosting BBQ’s and other mixers during or after work for their employees. But is serving alcohol at a company party really a good idea?
Before getting into an important legal issue associated with serving alcohol at a company party, the first thing that employers should consider in these scenarios is the nature of the company. Ask yourself these important questions:
· Are there many employees with known religious or personal issues with drinking that would feel uncomfortable if their coworkers were drinking?
· Are there many underage employees that would attend the party?
· Do your employees live close enough to work that calling a cab or car service to take an over served employee home would not be a problem?
· Is the extra cost of alcohol worth it?
After you answer those questions, here’s one legal issue you will want to think about: social host liability. The state of Washington, along with many other states throughout the nation have in place social host liability laws in place that will place potentially serious legal penalties on you (the employer) in these scenarios. Put simply, Washington social host liability laws place liability on the host for alcohol-related deaths and injuries that result from the alcohol served to employees. There are additional issues when it comes to serving (whether intentional or unintentional) alcohol to underage employees.
Courts look at the specifics of each instance, but it is possible that an employee that leaves a company party intoxicated and then gets in an accident will be partially responsible for the accident. This is not to say that the employee is not also responsible, but rather that there is joint responsibility in these cases that could end up costing you.
We promise we are not trying to take the fun out of the party. Just to remind you of some important legal issues that come with serving alcohol in the office. If you know that alcohol at your parties is an important thing you would like to continue doing, you should get in touch with aWashington employment lawyer to discuss how you can still throw parties and mixers and protect your company.Working with an attorney can help you achieve this end.
Some simple tips on how to handle the level of intoxication at a company party include: handing out drink tickets to limit the number of drinks served to each employee, serve food to make sure that your employees are not drinking on empty stomachs, hire a car service ahead of time, serve only beer and wine rather than hard alcohol and instruct bartenders ahead of time to inform you of any potentially overly intoxicated employees.