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Company Picnic and How to Avoid Liability

West Chester employment lawyers will help your company avoid liability.As summer quickly approaches, employers are planning for social events like company picnics. While there are many advantages to hosting a company picnic, employers should take certain precautions to avoid liability for any injuries that may occur at company-sponsored events.

Employer Liability for Company Picnic Injuries

In Pennsylvania, most employees are entitled to workers’ compensation for their work-related injuries. Employees do not need to be injured at work in order to recover; as long as they were acting in the course and scope of their employment, their injuries may be compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Therefore, if an employee is injured at a company picnic, the employer may be liable if:

  • employee participation was mandatory;
  • the event was company-sponsored; and
  • the employer directly benefitted from the employee’s participation.

Employers may also be liable for any harassment or discrimination that takes place at a company picnic, such as sexual harassment or religious discrimination. When alcohol is served, there is an increased potential for inappropriate behavior and employers may open themselves up to social host liability if they knowingly furnish alcohol to minors. Therefore, when planning summertime company picnics, employers should therefore take certain steps to minimize risk and avoid liability, including:

Tips to Minimize Liability Exposure

  • Make attendance optional
  • Do not compensate employees for attendance
  • Hold the party off company premises
  • Do not conduct business at the company picnic
  • Limit the amount of alcohol served by providing employees with drink tickets
  • Provide non-alcoholic beverage options
  • Do not exclude any employees from the event based on their race, religion, gender, or any other protected characteristic
  • Remind employees of the company policy against harassment and discrimination by sending out a memo before the event
  • Provide alternative free transportation for employees who are unable to safely drive home

Benefits of Company Picnics

Employers should not be deterred from throwing company picnics and other events, but rather simply take the appropriate steps to minimize their liability exposure. While company picnics can potentially open employers up to liability, there are many benefits to hosting company-sponsored events, including that it:

  • Encourages interdepartmental communication – Company picnics give employees from different departments the chance to communicate and better understand the connection between their roles in the company.
  • Boosts employee morale – Employees often look forward to the company picnic as a reward for all their hard work throughout the year; company-sponsored events boost employee morale, leading to improved performance following the event.
  • Provides an opportunity for employers to show appreciation – Hosting a company event is a great way for employers to show appreciation for their staff’s hard work and dedication.
  • Allows employers to build rapport with their staff – Employers have an opportunity to connect with their employees outside of a work setting, leading to increased rapport and trust.
  • Can be a great time to make company-wide announcements – If there is an important company-wide announcement to be made, the company picnic may be an opportune place to do so.

For more information on how to avoid company picnic liability as an employer, contact MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser by filling out an online inquiry or calling us at 484-318-7106. From our office in West Chester, our experienced employment lawyers serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.