The Holiday Party – Cheers or Tears?

Due to the current headlines, sexual harassment claims will undoubtedly have an impact on the traditional office party and companies will scrutinize and curtail past practices. These include things such as serving alcohol, having risqué themes and mixing too much fun with business.

Homeowners will similarly look at the parties they host and perhaps be more wary of how people act, especially when alcohol, food and family dynamics converge.

Company as well as home parties offer a variety of potential liabilities that could turn the atmosphere from cheer to tears.

In California, all company-sponsored events fall within the scope of employment as they serve to boost the company’s image among employees.  Serving alcohol at company parties can have serious consequences.  In California, under the McCarty case, an employee’s drinking may fall within the course and scope of employment when (1) the consumption is allowed by the employer and (2) the consumption is either a customary incident of employment or it benefits the employer. (McCarty v. Workmen’s Comp. Appeals Bd. (1974) 12 Cal.3d 677.) In the 2013 case of Purton v. Marriott Int’l, the California Supreme Court found that if alcohol consumption is the proximate cause of the injury, and the consumption occurred within the scope of employment, liability may be imposed. (Purton v. Marriott Int’l (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 499.)

For those who find themselves injured at a company or home party, contact our office.

We want you to have an enjoyable time with co-workers, friends and family. However here are some tips on avoiding injury this Holiday Season:

  • Limit the alcohol consumption to manageable levels and remember, while many people like to have their libations at the holiday party, it is not however a time to re-create the toga parties from one’s college days.  Excessive alcohol consumption simply leads to increased problems as well as potential hazards.  In addition, social media means what happens at the company party will be available for the world to see.  Remember that not everyone likes to drink, so making everyone feel comfortable will lead to more cheer.  Having options for designated drivers and rides home is advised.
  • Do away with the tradition of mistletoe because encouraging unwanted advances is always bad policy, especially at work.
  • Know who is coming into your home and keep an eye out for unsavory behavior.
  • If you are hosting a party, make sure walkways are free from ice, debris, clearly lit and most importantly easy to navigate.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offers the following 12 “Ways to Health” for this Holiday Season:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay warm
  • Manage stress
  • Travel safely
  • Be smoke-free
  • Get check-ups and vaccinations
  • Watch the kids
  • Prevent injuries
  • Handle and prepare food safely
  • Eat healthy and be active

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my friends, family and clients.

Please contact my office should you need any advice or help this Holiday Season.  Thank you for your confidence and your business!

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