Company party planners should think about the legal, moral and business risks of serving alcohol at office holiday parties. If the company provides free booze and drunk employees injure themselves, the employees are entitled to workers compensation, according to a story in the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. "However, if a company party is completely voluntary and the employer charges for drinks, the company is not liable for workers comp when employees injure themselves,” says Nancy Howell, director of human resource services of a professional employer organization, in the story. "Whether or not the company provides free booze, if a drunk employee injures another employee, that employee can get benefits. Because the drinks were free, the employees are considered involuntarily intoxicated. Your responsibility as a company is to provide a safe working environment.” Howell offers these tips for keeping the drinking under control: ? Don't anyone leave the workplace intoxicated; call a cab if necessary. ? Communicate and post your organization's workplace substance-abuse policy and send reminders before the company party to make sure that employees know the policy, expectations and concerns regarding the use of alcoholic beverages in any work-related situation and social function. ? Ensure that employees understand that professional expectations are the same, that they are expected to act responsibly and that they know what behaviors are prohibited -- such as sexual misconduct. ? Provide plenty of nonalcoholic beverages and plenty of food, especially foods rich in protein and starch. ? Hire and instruct bartenders to stop serving guests if they're intoxicated. Don't put bottles out or provide an open tap or have servers circulating with drinks on trays. ? Limit how long the bar is open. ? Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends. ? Designate drivers and party managers who will not drink. Ask managers and supervisors to lead by example by not drinking and monitor guests' intoxication levels. Collect car keys and return them only to sober drivers. ? Prearrange taxis at company expense in advance of the party for employees who consume too much alcohol.
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