Dunder-Sponsored Drinking

November 14, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

Cost of drinks: $500
Litigation Value: $100,000 – $1,000,000 (depends on how seriously someone gets hurt and who it is)
Watching the Drunken Debauchery: Priceless, but probably not worth the risk.

The problem that caught my attention during the “Business” Trip episode of The Office was the company-sponsored drinking event that led to Andy and Oscar drunk-dialing Angel and Michael going home with the concierge. When employees get drunk at office parties, the company can be held liable for their actions.

This is particularly relevant because office holiday parties are right around the corner. In some states, companies can be held liable under a “host liability” theory for the acts of their employees during and after office parties. Now, I’m not sure if Dunder Mifflin could be held liable for Andy and Oscar doing anything in this episode –- this may not have been company-sponsored activity. But if Dunder Mifflin paid for the booze, or worse, served the booze, the company could be in a difficult position.

Luckily, Andy didn’t drive home drunk and get in an accident. He just called Angela and demanded sex. (Although this probably won’t create any liability for the company, I fear that the court of Angela will administer fierce justice on poor Andy. Even his Cornell education isn’t going to get him out of this one.)

The important thing to remember is that all kinds of problems can arise when your company has a party or a happy hour for its employees. Whether it’s host liability, a sexual harassment claim after some inappropriate conduct, or even a workers’ comp claim after someone passes out and cracks their head open after too many Long Island Iced Teas, there are potential problems that you need to keep in mind. Hopefully you’ll be a better wingman for your company than Andy and Oscar were for each other.

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4 COMMENTS

1 LKS
15:53:43, 14/11/08

Oddly (or sadly) enough this question came up here not too long ago. One of our ee’s was trying to convince the CEO to have ‘happy hour’ every Friday at 4 pm. I almost died when I found out. You’d be amazed at how short sighted some ee’s can be!

2 Blawg Review # 186 | Res Ipsa Blog
06:09:24, 17/11/08

[...] That’s What She Said provides legal analysis Andy and Oscar’s antics from the latest episode of The Office. [...]

3 ACU Frank
12:42:43, 18/11/08

I’m disappointed that they missed an opportunity for a great gag… When Andy drunk-dials Angela, Dwight answers. Of course, Andy assumes he dialed the wrong number and chats it up with Dwight before redialing Angela. C’mon, writers… Work with me on this!

4 Cromely
21:31:52, 22/12/08

The interesting twist here is that these actions all took place outside the country. Would US courts even have jurisdiction over inappropriate behavior in Canada?

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