In Tennessee we’re holding our company Christmas party. We are serving liquor and beer. Should we have some type of written disclaimer, waiver of some sort for liability purposes? If so would you have a template or example of one that I can use?
You can certainly have employees sign a release that they will act responsibly, not drink and drive, and release the company from all responsibility. However, even if you have these disclaimers notarized, they will not eliminate all liablity for the company. That is why many employers are going to holiday parties that do not include alcohol.
You may think you are avoiding trouble by serving only beer and wine. But, remember that each can of beer or glass of wine has the same alcohol content as a shot of whiskey. And, as the ads say, if you are buzzed, you are too drunk to drive.
An article on safe holiday parties will be posted on our sister site at blog.laborlawcenter.com tomorrow morning. But until then, here are the highlights:
Alcohol liability laws are state-specific. In many states, under the social host laws, anyone who provides alcohol is then responsible if the drinker has an accident and injures or kills themselves, or someone else.
If the party is on company property or company time, any employee who is injured will have a valid workers comp claim.
Even if the party is after work and not on company property, if the employee is attending the party in the scope of their employment, (and most functions are) the employer may be liable for any accidents during or after the party. This includes injuries to third parties.
The U.S. Department of Labor has several suggestions on this topic at: http://www.dol.gov/asp/programs/drugs/workingpartners/sp_iss/ninetips.asp
They suggest that you enforce your usual policy regarding drinking at work. If you normally do not allow employees to work under the influence of alcohol, do not serve spiked eggnog or champagne at the employee potluck luncheon.
Since most of the liability for employers comes from workers who drive home after drinking, have designated drivers available to take them home, or have the company pay for a cab. Remember that designated drivers should not consume even one alcoholic beverage.
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