Q: How responsible is the business owner for an over-served employee once they leave the party premises?
A: Employers can be held responsible if they “knowingly provide alcohol to an intoxicated person (or employee)” under Oklahoma state law. Several cases in Oklahoma have actually upheld that businesses and bars can be held responsible if a person drinks too much and ultimately has an accident later while intoxicated. Employers may be protected if they suggested that guests bring their own beverages of choice so they avoid providing the drinks — BYOB.
Q: Will hiring a bartender protect you and serve as a neutral gatekeeper?
A: Hiring a licensed bartender as an independent contractor may provide you with an additional level of protection. Because you have someone licensed and trained on who to serve and who not to serve, it creates a first line of defense. And since under Oklahoma law you have to knowingly provide the alcohol, the bartender, who is technically their own company, is the one providing the alcohol and would limit the exposure of the employer. As a practical matter, someone who's unknown by the employees may not feel so obligated to serve them or fear hurting their feelings when they cut them off. They would serve as a neutral party.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER