The end of alcohol at corporate events? (Editorial)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/08/2003

It’s one of those news stories that dominate water-cooler conversations and radio talk shows for days. One that also sent a collective shiver down employers’ spines.

When an Ontario judge awarded Linda Hunt $281,000 after finding her employer partially responsible for a car crash she caused while driving drunk following an office party in 1994, prohibition at corporate events became the question on employers’ minds.

Hunt worked as a part-time receptionist with regular hours at Sutton Group Incentive Reality in Barrie, Ont. The employer held a Christmas party in the afternoon with a free bar. Hunt, then 44, was expected to answer phones during the party and clean-up afterwards, but was able to consume twice the legal alcohol limit for driving before leaving the party, the court determined. Halfway through the party her boss had noticed she was getting drunk and offered to call her common-law husband to arrange a lift. She declined the offer, as well as a free cab, and instead went to a pub for dinner and more drinks. Then she got in her car to drive home in a winter storm. She crashed into another vehicle and sustained head injuries and now has trouble functioning.