The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

More and more employers provide alcohol in the workplace

Some North Carolina employees may have more dangerous jobs than others, which may increase their chances of getting hurt on the job. When workers are aware of the dangers that are part and parcel of the job, they take care to protect themselves against sustaining a workplace injury.

However, when employers encourage drinking alcohol on the job, new factors enter into the equation and the work environment becomes more dangerous. Alcohol on the job also raises questions about employer liability. Specifically, are employers liable for accidents caused by drunk employees, whether on the job or after leaving the job?

Now is the time for employers to address these issues. More and more offices are keeping their refrigerators stocked with wine and beer, with one prominent business explaining it employs adults who are expected to act as adults. Another company justifies providing workers with beer by citing its employees' long work hours, claiming that their work environment demands that social life and work life intertwine.

Another business keeps a keg in the office, stating they monitor drinks and discourage extreme drinking through an iPad app.

Employers may be going down a slippery slope by providing alcohol on the job. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 8 percent of employees working full time have reported that on five or more occasions they have had five or more drinks while at work. Another survey showed that of the 6,540 employees employed at 16 various industries, 23 percent of the upper level management reported they had consumed alcohol during office hours in a one-month period.

By condoning working while under the influence, employers may be taking on a certain responsibility for their employees' safety. However, the law in this area is quite complex. Those employees who have suffered an injury on the job due to any reason may be able to file for workers' compensation and may be able to claim benefits that could cover medical bills for their injuries. An injured worker should consider consulting an experienced attorney to discuss what options are available.

Source: Huffington Post, "Alcohol in the workplace: cool trend or risky policy?," Joseph Nowinski, April 18, 2012

1 Comment

What liability will the employer have in contributing to someone developing or continuing a drinking problem? Or what if an employee is an alchoholic in this environment of condoned (if not encouraged) drinking - is it harassment? It does seem like there is a peer pressure to drink. This is extremely prevelent in the IT industry (I live in Seattle) -- I have a relative that I believe is in early stages of Alcoholism that his work environment is encouraging heavy drinking. I also believe there is an unspoken requirement to be one of the crowd to succeed in the company.

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