Company-sponsored corporate event and party

Preventative Steps Before Hosting a Company-Sponsored Event that Serves Alcohol

Corporate events are in full-swing with so many businesses returning to the office and moving away from remote work. Indeed, it’s a time when gathering is encouraged to build and reinforce relationships. Think of all the event possibilities — team building activities, parties, meetings, and the like. Many of which may offer alcoholic beverages, which can open businesses up to liability.

Social Host Liability

It’s important to know that Florida does not have what is called “Social Host Liability” meaning a business will not be automatically liable for actions and exposures (e.g., car accidents due to drunk driving employees) simply because they hosted an event that served alcohol. However, some cases have shown that this is not a hard and fast rule (e.g., the employer knew the employee was intoxicated but allowed them to drive anyway). So what can you do?

Insurance to Protect Against Liability

Insurance is an excellent way to protect against liability and protect your business, but company-sponsored events or parties may require a bit more attention. As for as insurance goes, it’s always a good idea to checkwith your company’s insurance agent because liquor liability may not be covered by your Commercial General Liability policy. You may also want to ask your agent about whether you have an Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy because this will protect the business from discrimination and harassment and may cover third-party coverage. This means that if an employee has too much to drink and sexually harasses another, the business will be covered from such legal claims. Another policy to consider is Special Event Coverage as it protects the business from liability related to that specific event in question — again, your agent should be able to best advise here.

Beyond insurance, there are 12 things you can do to take preventive action.

  1. Ask employees to sign a Liability Waiver and Release Agreement, which we offer on in our online shop to “go it alone.”

  2. Remind employees the party is an extension of the workplace, so inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated.

  3. Remind employees of the company’s sexual harassment policy and that it applies to company-sponsored events as well as during work hours.

  4. Include a reminder on the invitation (or invitation reminder) that employees should drink responsibly and avoid driving after drinking.

  5. Print (or ask team members to decorate) signs and posters reminding employees to drink responsibly and hang them at the event. We have a sample copy you may use attached.

  6. Make sure you have other non-alcoholic beverages, food, and activities to limit an employee’s interest in drinking repeatedly.

  7. Hire a bartender to serve drinks to avoid self-over-indulgence.

  8. Limit drinks via drink tickets or having guest-employees pay for their own drinks.

  9. Cut off serving alcohol at least thirty minutes before the end of the evening, instead offering soft drinks and warm beverages.

  10. Consider pre-arranging for alternate transportation for employee’s who may feel unable to drive if they consumed alcohol; if you offer this, encourage employees to make use of it.

  11. Designate a leader to monitor employees, remind them to limit their drinking, and offer ride services.

  12. Gently remind management to lead by example as far as their alcoholic consumption and behavior goes.

  13. Never serve alcohol to minors (i.e. interns, etc.).

 

If you need more guidance or have specific questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to a licensed employment attorney and HR lawyer in your state like HR Legal Logistics — we can help make sure you are protecting what matters to you!