Employer liable for ‘out of control’ christmas drinks

Posted by Andrew McGiffert |22 Nov 10 | 0 comments

In 2009 Fraser Coast Free Range Pty Ltd lodged an appeal with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for a previous decision made against them, holding them liable for an ‘out of control’ party.

During a Christmas party held in 2007, held on company property and attended to by the Director and 20+ other employees, an intoxicated and ‘out of control’ worker was injured in a fight.

The worker was entitled to compensation because the employer had done nothing to curb her consumption of alcohol. While a barbecue was provided, “guests indulged more in the alcohol than the food”, Commissioner Glenys Fisher found.

When an altercation broke out between several guests, the worker intervened and was struck in the back. She fell to the ground and suffered a fractured collar bone and an injury to her right eye.

She made a claim for compensation, which her employer rejected. She sought a review and Q-COMP accepted her claim. The employer appealed.

Before Commissioner Fisher, the company director conceded that the injury had occurred in the course of the worker’s employment, but contended that it was not compensable because the worker had intervened in the fight after he directed her not to do so.

The worker, he said, had been drinking heavily, was unsteady on her feet and “out of control”.

“[As she] was keen to become involved despite being instructed not to, then the injury was a product of her own actions,” he argued.

Commissioner Fisher, however, found that the worker had not taken herself outside of the employment relationship through her consumption of alcohol.

“Alcohol was freely and amply supplied by her employer and nothing was done by [the director] to curb [her] consumption,” she said.

Commissioner Fisher also found that as the director hadn’t actually seen the incident that led to the worker’s injuries he was in no position to conclude that she had been the aggressor. Further, she hinted that the director’s recollection of events was doubtful, considering he had consumed four mid-strength beers and eight glasses of vodka.

Commissioner Fisher accepted that the worker had also been impaired by alcohol, but found that the guest involved in the initial altercation was the more likely aggressor in the incident that caused her injuries.

She also found that medical evidence supported the worker’s contention that she had been assaulted and pushed to the ground.

Click here to read the full appeal

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