If an employee gets drunk at your office and then gets in a car accident, your company could be held accountable."Wherever a company could have controlled alcohol consumption, the company may be liable," says Janet Albers, a lawyer with Rosemary Macedonio &Associates, in Cleveland. That includes employees' drinking in the company's parking lot and at office parties. Ronald Beitman, a Falmouth, Mass., lawyer,concurs: "More courts have been willing to extend liability to employers than to homeowners or other social hosts" because of a perceived "master-servant"relationship between employer and employee.
Both lawyers advise companies to set clear policies about drinking on site and to take immediate action if they discover employees are drinking oncompany property. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety offers driving safety programs in partnership with the National Commission Against DrunkDriving (202-452-6004).
Entertaining clients over alcohol also has its dangers. "If a company accepts the benefit on its tax returns, then it accepts the burden of the risk," says WestPalm Beach lawyer Jeffrey D. Fisher. The only protection a company has is an outright prohibition on any drinking.