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The holidays are a time for festive parties and plenty of cheer. For many employers, this time of year also creates the perfect opportunity to show your staff how much you appreciate them. If you’re considering throwing a memorable office bash complete with open bar, you may want to think twice. 

While office holiday parties have long been the subject of jokes about over-consumption and embarrassment, a business owner’s concerns about potential liability is no laughing matter. Before the spirits start to flow, you’ll want to understand Florida laws when it comes to serving alcohol to your employees.

What Do the Statutes Say?

Assume that you serve alcohol at your office party and an intoxicated employee gets into an accident on his way home. Can you be held liable?

In some states the answer is yes, but the state of Florida is different. Under Florida Statute 768.125, as long as the person you’re serving is over the legal drinking age, you can’t be held liable for injury or damage that results from that person’s intoxication. However, there are some additional concerns.

First of all, you’ll want to be 100 percent sure that no minors consume alcohol under your watch. If this happens, you can be held liable for the minors actions and will likely also find yourself in trouble with the law. The exclusion of liability also does not apply if you serve alcohol to someone whom you know to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol.

Other Important Considerations

Although you may not have legal liability for the misconduct of intoxicated employees, it doesn’t mean that you should turn a blind eye. A situation resulting in injury or death will be traumatic to your entire staff. The negative press and potential legal battles that could result are also certainly not something you want to risk.

In the age of the #MeToo movement, employers should also take extra care to ensure that no inappropriate issues occur during a drunken holiday party. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that everyone has a good time and gets home safely. Here are some tips for keeping things under control without feeling like a Grinch.

Simple Precautions for a Safe and Fun Office Holiday Party

If you plan to serve alcohol at your party, take a moment before the event to remind employees of your company culture and ask them to avoid drinking in excess. Make sure you serve plenty of food throughout the evening and offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.

Skipping the liquor and only serving beer and wine can help to reduce the chances of inebriation, as can limiting the amount of time the bar is open. Hire trained bartenders who are well-versed in recognizing the signs of over-intoxication and will also ensure that alcohol does not get into the hands of underage guests.

Finally, offer all employees a sober ride home. Uber or Lyft are excellent options that are also inexpensive. If you really want to splurge, consider organizing transportation to a local hotel and covering the cost of rooms.

Happy Holidays from Danz Law!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your business and wish you and your family a very happy, safe holiday. We look forward to serving you in the New Year and beyond.