Once again, we are approaching that time of year where companies host holiday parties. Office parties are a great way to thank employees and customers for their contributions in making your business successful. However, hosting a party can create liability as well, particularly where alcohol is being served, as employees and other guests may consume alcohol, drive their vehicles and can suffer some kind of injury.
According to Insurance Agents & Brokers of Pennsylvania Inc., 70% of all companies that have a holiday party will serve alcohol. Your state's Dram Shop law may apply to a private party. Put another way, an employer can be held liable for hosting or sponsoring a party where an attendee leaves intoxicated and causes injury to themselves or others.
A good suggestion is to either not to serve alcohol or to limit the number of drinks that the company offers to employees. Coupons for two drinks per person is probably sufficient; thereafter, if employees or their guests want to continue to consume alcohol, they can do so on a cash basis. Of course, the company still has a duty to observe behavior and to discourage and prevent anyone from driving home intoxicated.
Finally, if you allow employees and their guests to consume alcohol, you should be prepared to offer taxi or other transportation to allow for alternative ways to get intoxicated persons home. Some companies hold parties at hotels, so why not reserve a block of rooms (at a discounted rate) to allow employees and their guests to stay over night?