December is the time for holiday parties. If you throw an employee bash that involves alcohol, make sure no one is on the clock or has to work on behalf of the organization. Better yet, don’t provide alcohol.
Another option: Hold the event at a site outside company control, such as a hotel, to simply provide a place to gather. All these measures can help limit your liability in case something should go wrong.
Recent case: Todd Kinsey worked for a garage in Ohio that provides snowplowing service. With Christmas approaching, Kinsey’s supervisor suggested a day of fun for the staff, including bowling and poker.
Employees came to the garage, clocked in and headed to a bowling alley, where they drank beer. The group then went back to the garage for a few hands of Texas hold ’em and more beer.
Then a snowstorm struck, which meant snowplow duty called. Kinsey headed home in his car, and a former employee came along. Kinsey was going to change clothes and then return to remove snow for the garage’s customers. But on the way, Kinsey was involved in a car accident that killed his passenger.
The passenger’s estate sued, alleging negligent supervision by the garage. The court sent the case to trial. Reason: Kinsey was drinking on company time, was expected to work after drinking alcohol and had an accident while furthering company business. (Whelan v. Vanderwist of Cincinnati, Inc., No. 2007-G-2769, Court of Appeals, Ohio)
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