Ask the Experts about Holiday Party Liability

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Welcome to SIA Group’s blog series – Ask the Experts.  With ever-changing  laws and regulations it can be hard to stay up to date and remain compliant. It’s no surprise you have questions. The good news, we’ve got the answers.

Topic: Holiday Party Liability

Question: At our upcoming company holiday party, alcohol will be purchased by employees and not supplied by the company. Are we still liable if an employee gets into an accident or injures someone as a result of drinking?

Answer: The liabilities remain. The employer is the sponsor of the event and therefore has a level of accountability for the amount of alcohol consumed at the event and the safety of the guests. If the employer knowingly makes alcohol accessible (even if not paying for it), and therefore has direct observation of individuals and knowingly does not take action to prohibit inappropriate behavior, the employer may be found liable. The risks, however, depend upon the facts and circumstances of the situation and liability would most likely be less if the employer is not providing the alcohol and management is paying attention to behavior at the party and taking appropriate action to discourage driving while under the influence.