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The trouble with X-max parties

Countless Czech businesses have it made a tradition to take out their employees for a celebration of Christmas and the imminent close of the year. These Christmas parties are immensely popular among employees. However, sometimes things get out of control, and you end up with (hopefully minor) injuries or damage to property. In such a case, who is liable – the employee, or the employer?

The end of the year is nigh, and the X-mas party season is in full swing. Aside from strengthening the collegial bonds, having fun, dance, booze, and never-to-be-forgotten embarrassments, Christmas parties are also associated with the consequences of such merriment: injuries and damage to property. But who is to be held responsible for such inconveniences?

Most employers among our readers will surely be relieved to hear that in the majority of cases, the liability lies with the wrongdoer himself or herself – i.e., with the employee. But … under certain circumstances, the employer may (also) be liable for the damage. This concerns in particular situations in which the Christmas party is conceived as a teambuilding event, i.e., the employer has organized the event so that workplace relationships are improved and strengthened and team cohesion is boosted, and has made attendance mandatory for employees. In such a case, the participation of individual employees in the Christmas party could be considered an activity which is directly related to the discharge of work duties, upon the employer's instructions. However, even if the Christmas party bears all the hallmarks of a teambuilding event, employees will still be fully liable for damage if the employer has incontrovertible evidence that they were under the influence of alcohol. (This is because the limitation of the obligation to pay damages, at 4.5times of the employee's average monthly earnings, does not apply to damage caused as a consequence of the employee's inebriation).

In the same vein, the employer cannot be held responsible for injuries which a drunk employee inflicts on themselves or their colleagues. Having said all that, proving the degree of inebriation and thus the degree of culpability in cases of this sort is usually a protracted and complicated affair, which is why the old adage applies: better safe than sorry. A little prevention will go a long way in this respect.

Source: Act No. 262/2006 Coll., the Labor Code, as amended