Holiday parties are fun, but….

people holding champagne glasses

We all look forward to the holidays when we can look back at where we’ve been, where we hope to go, and celebrate that we made it through another year. Holiday parties at work are a great way to boost morale and toast each other’s good health. Not to put a damper on them, parties can also present some risks if not planned for.

Laws vary widely from state to state. In some states, “social hosts” have little liability, others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises and still others extend the host’s liability to injuries off the premises. Society in general, however, has become less tolerant of alcohol abuse, so for businesses that hold office parties, it is critical to make sure employees are capable of driving safely when they leave.
Liquor liability for a business is most likely covered by a commercial general liability (CGL) policy, however if you’re not sure, check with your agent or broker, What may not be covered are incidents in which an employee becomes intoxicated and assaults another employee at the party.
In that case, an Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy may be a wise investment. In addition to protecting a business from discrimination, sexual harassment, emotional distress, and other workplace-related issues, and EPLI policy can also include “third-party” coverage (claims made by non-employees, usually clients or customers).
If you plan to host a holiday party at which you will be serving alcohol, the Insurance Information Institute offers the following tips to prevent a lawsuit:
• Advise employees to be responsible. Include a statement on the party invitation and/or circulate a written reminder to all concerned on the responsibilities to drink only in moderation and to avoid driving after drinking.
• Emphasize to management that they must lead by example.
• Hold the party at an offsite location. If problems do arise, it is better that they occur away from the business premises. Depending on the state, the liability will generally be on the restaurant than the company. However, it is not unusual for an employer to be named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit if an intoxicated employee leaves any company-sponsored event and injures himself or herself or another person as a result.
• Do not pay for alcoholic drinks. Guest will drink less if they have to pay for the drinks themselves.
• If you feel you must furnish alcoholic beverages, consider a drink voucher system to limit the number of drinks served. Or, serve alcohol for only a short period.
• Consider hiring a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and will limit consumption by partygoers.
• Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. It is proven that food can help counter the effects of alcohol.
• Do not serve alcohol to minors.
• Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening and switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
• Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all employees and guests and make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees and guests to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol.
By all means, enjoy this holiday season, including an office party with your colleagues, clients and friends. Just do it safely.

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