Holiday and end-of-year parties are about to begin, and this article serves as a guide to employer liability for employee drinking at these types of parties. The basic variables to keep in mind, if you are an employer organizing one of these parties, are who is providing the alcohol, and who is serving the alcohol. The more distance your business has between itself and those functions, the less chance of your company being on the hook for employee actions.

Updated October 2017

In a 2015 survey of employers, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that most businesses (59%) planned to serve alcohol at their holiday or end-of-year parties. Of these organizations, just under half of these employers (47%) reported that they would try to regulate alcohol consumption using the following methods:

  • providing drink tickets or a drink maximum (71% of respondents in this category),
  • serving only certain types of alcohol (25%),
  • having a cash bar (18%), or
  • other (11%).

If you’re a business owner and are planning to host a Holiday party, it would be prudent to avoid business litigation from an auto accident caused by an employee by taking appropriate precautions when serving alcohol.