Alcohol Policy Saved Company from Worker Drunk Driving Death Liability

At this time of year many companies hold Christmas Parties or Celebrations at which alcohol may be served. When workers drink alcohol at work or work-related events, their employers could face liability if an intoxicated worker gets into an accident and injures or kills themselves or someone else.
There are steps, however, that a company can take to avoid liability in such situations.

At this time of year many companies hold Christmas Parties or Celebrations at which alcohol may be served. But when workers drink alcohol at work or work-related events, their employers could face liability if an intoxicated worker gets into an accident and injures or kills themselves or someone else.
There are steps, however, that a company can take to avoid liability in such situations.
A court in Alberta recently handled a case involving a workerÂ’s death in a drunk-driving accident. In the end the company was deemed to be not liable for workers drunken driving death.
Briefly here is what happened. After work hours, two friends of a principal of the company arrived at his office with alcohol. The three men had a drink. Around 7PM they invited a female office worker to join them for a drink which she did. Other people, both employees and non-employees came and went from the impromptu gathering, some bringing more alcohol. At around 9PM the company principal left and other people left at the same time. At this point the office worker did not appear to be drunk. She and another individual stayed until around 2AM. On her way home the worker got into an accident and was killed. Her blood alcohol level was three times the level at which driving a vehicle was legal. Her family sued the employer for negligently allowing the worker to consume alcohol on the premises and drive home intoxicated.
The Alberta Court of QueenÂ’s Bench dismissed the lawsuit. The court considered whether the company owed a duty of care to the worker. Should the principal have foreseen that sheÂ’d get drunk and then try to drive? In this case the company didnÂ’t provide the alcohol, the worker did not appear to be inebriated to the principal or anyone else, and when he left he reasonably believed that others were leaving to. The principal couldnÂ’t have known the worker would stay on for several hours and continue drinking.
Also the company had a policy permitting workers to take a taxi ride home at company expense at any time and there was no reason to believe that if the worker did get drunk she would drive home when she could take a free cab.
The company in this case did many of the things right that other companies should emulate. It had a company policy barring workers from using or possessing alcohol on the job and it paid for workers to take a taxi whenever they needed one – no questions asked. Those actions helped it avoid liability for the workers death. However the Judge added the company did some things wrong. A company alcohol policy is only effective if it is enforced and for sure a member of senior management should not have permitted workers to drink in the office. It certainly should not be undermined by a member of senior management.
Tips:

  1. Have an Alcohol and Drug Policy in place that is enforced
  2. Have a policy in place permitting workers to take a taxi ride home at the company expense at any time.

hello

LP Human Resources can help your company write a policy these policies for you and keep workers safe and companies out of court.
Call us for a no-obligation discussion of your needs at 403-238-0884 or contact us at www.lphumanresources.com