It is the holiday season again, and as I have stated in the past, the best policy is not to be a “Scrooge,” but remember that the dealership is responsible for the actions of its employees. Injuries or accidents that occur as a result of too much “holiday spirit” on the dealership premises, or at parties sponsored by the dealership, may become the basis for workers’ compensation claims or worse. Also, accidents that occur off premises, but are directly attributable to a dealership holiday party or are caused by an employee’s overindulgence with the dealership’s knowledge, may expose the dealership to legal liability. In addition to the above, a recent article from Law360 titled, “5 Ways to Block Naughty Lawsuits from Nice Holiday Parties,” includes some helpful reminders to limit the business’ liability due to a holiday party; a summary of the article is as follows:
- Emphasize that employees are still representatives of the business and, as such, the decorum, policies and procedures they are required to live by at the workplace still apply whether or not the affair is on the dealership premises or elsewhere. For example, discrimination and harassment policies are still in effect, managers are still in their managerial capacity and should not treat their staff any different than on the business premises. There should be no off-color jokes. Remember, some employees feel obligated to put up with silliness at a party that they would not put up with at the office. However, this should not be the case.
- Limit the amount of alcohol served, if any is served. As such, I do not like employees serving other employees. This usually leads to friends pouring more than is reasonable. When serving alcohol, it is prudent to hire a professional bar server to serve the alcohol. Generally, the wait staff are trained to recognize individuals who have consumed too much and can appropriately cut them off. An employee’s diminished capacity due to drinking at an office-sponsored party is not a defense to a dealership’s responsibility.
- Speaking of alcohol, if an employee has overindulged, make sure that another employee or, better yet, Uber or a taxi service is summoned to drive the employee home. It would be appropriate for the business to pay for that service.
- Make sure the office celebration is voluntary and not mandatory. In this day and age of over political correctness, you do not want to offend somebody’s political, religious or whatever position. Therefore, make sure that your staff understands that this is not a command performance attendance but is strictly voluntary.
- Finally, pocket the cell phones. While taking a picture can be an issue subsequent to the party, a video can be more damaging. Remember, people do silly things at parties, things they may regret later on, but cannot live down if posted on Facebook or disseminated on the Internet. You want to avoid embarrassing your staff, yourself and subjecting the business to a potential lawsuit.
As the holiday season approaches, there is always so much activity and personal business to attend to that it is easy to forget to thank our valued clients, like you, for their business.
Robert A. Poklar, Esq.
Weston Hurd LLP
The Tower at Erieview
1301 East 9th Street, Suite 1900
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1862
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1862
p: 216.687.3243; f: 216.621.8369