What Employers Are (and Aren't) Liable for at Holiday Parties

With Thanksgiving past and Christmas around the corner, offices are gearing up for holiday parties. But with the fun comes potential liability issues for employers.

Employer liability for office holiday party varies state-by-state. Texas law is more employer friendly than most. The state has done away with what’s known as “social host liability.” As long as the party host isn’t serving alcohol to minors, and isn’t charging, he’s not liable for the actions of drunk guests.

 But there are exceptions. Ryan Fowler is managing attorney for the Houston office of Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry.

 “If they have, for example, a holiday gathering during normal business hours where they’re serving alcohol — and especially if it’s a situation where you have to leave for a luncheon at a restaurant or a party room and then try to come back to work to drive home — that's where an employer in Texas could still be held liable.”

 Apart from such potential liability for drunk driving, Fowler says employers can also be held liable for sexual harassment by guests at holiday parties, regardless of whether the guest is drunk or sober. 

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...