It’s that time of year again! If you’re one of many employers planning a holiday celebration, take a moment to consider steps to limit business risk before the fun begins.

By taking precautions beforehand, employers can avoid a post-holiday-season legal complaint. It’s happened before, and it’s no fun. This time, it started at a company holiday gathering where the company hosted lots of food and (of course) drinks. The employees mingled and toasted to their year of hard work.

As the hours passed and the celebration continued, an employee we’ll call Bob had a few too many drinks before driving home. You guessed it – heading home Bob caused a head-on collision, badly injuring the other driver.

The other driver didn’t sue Bob. Instead, he went for the deep pocket – Bob’s employer. In his lawsuit, he claimed the employer was negligent and violated New York’s Dram Shop Act, a law that protects those injured by people who are served excessive alcohol.

Although Bob’s employer ultimately escaped liability, it had to defend the lawsuit which took years and was distracting and time-consuming.

This scenario isn’t unusual. That’s why companies should think seriously about holding in-house celebrations where alcohol is served.  Although Bob’s employer wasn’t liable, others haven’t been so lucky. Employer liability can occur for accidents caused by over-serving employees at an office happy hour or even at a party at the home of the boss, particularly where a company car is involved or the incident occurs during the work day.

Holidays certainly are a time to celebrate hardworking employees, yet employers should use care to avoid situations where they expose their companies to potential lawsuits. No matter what precautions are taken, it’s never a good idea to allow employees to over-consume alcohol.