Holiday Parties: Employers’ Legal Responsibility

As the holidays roll around, it is important for employers to understand their responsibility when throwing a holiday party that involves alcoholic beverages.

A case brought against the Marriott Hotel in 2009 spelled out the risks potentially involved.

Marriott Sued in Drunk Driving Accident Case

As reported in HR Morning, employees and management at the Marriott Del Mar Hotel threw a holiday party to thank its employees. Each employee received two tickets for alcoholic beverages. The hotel managers planned to serve only wine and beer. The hotel’s bartender Michael Landri didn’t work the day of the party and arrived at the party after drinking a beer and shot of Jack Daniel’s whiskey at home. He also brought a flask of Jack Daniel’s to the party and refilled it using the bar’s liquor stock.

Landri either was driven home or drove himself home after the party ended and arrived safely. The problem arose when he decided to drive home a co-worker who had become inebriated at the party. While taking the employee home, Landri rear- ended another vehicle. He was driving 100 mph and the impact killed the driver. Landri’s BAC tested at .16, twice the legal limit.

Case Details

The family of the driver who was killed sued the Marriott (Purton v. Marriott International Inc.) based on a claim that Landri’s intoxication resulted from the holiday party. Counsel for the Marriott argued that Landry had arrived home safely and wasn’t acting within the scope of his job.

The court ruled that the party and drinking had benefited the Marriott as a promotion to improve employer-employee relations and the hotel was therefore liable.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment litigation firm. We have assisted small and medium sized businesses with employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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