With the jolly season around the corner, many businesses are gearing up to celebrate the winter solstice in style. But if you’re planning to do the same, remember that your company could be held responsible for what happens at your Christmas party. A recruitment firm recently found that out the hard way after its managing director assaulted an employee.
The story began in December 2011 when Northampton Recruitment organised a Christmas staff get-together at the Collingtree Golf Club in Northampton. The agency paid for the alcohol drunk during the event. After the party a few staff members and the managing director decided to continue the celebrations at the Hilton Hotel. They had a few more drinks there. However, the party soon turned sour after employees started to discuss a new office hire who was understood to be “paid substantially more than anyone else.”
Apparently, the managing director “became annoyed by being questioned” about the new hire’s remunerations and stated: “I fucking make the decisions in this company, it’s my business.” He then punched one of the workers twice. The second punch made the employee fall back and hit his head on the marble floor, causing him traumatic brain damage.
In 2016, the High Court ruled that the company was not liable for the actions of its managing director. But the case has now been appealed. On Thursday October 11, the Court of Appeal overturned the previous decision with all the judges unanimously agreeing that Northampton Recruitment was responsible for the actions of its managing director.
Lady Justice Asplin, who was one of three judges at the Court of Appeal, argued that Northampton Recruitment was responsible for the incident as the managing director had been acting in his role and not as a private person. She said: “He chose to wear his metaphorical managing director’s hat and to deliver a lecture to his subordinates. He was purporting to use his position and drove home his managerial authority, with which he had been entrusted, with the use of blows. Looked at objectively, he was purporting to exercise his authority over his subordinates and was not merely one of a group of drunken revellers whose conversation had turned to work.”
It just goes to show that business leaders have to take extra care about both their own and their employees actions during a Christmas parties.