The accounting firm PwC is facing an explosive lawsuit in the U.K. But the case could upend the entire world of work.
Auditors have been hit by litigation for years for allegedly improperly performing financial statement audits at companies. But now an unusual lawsuit has been filed in the U.K. against behemothic auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers PwC.
An employee allegedly suffered a serious accident and lost half of his skull after an employer-organized booze cruise involving excessive alcohol consumption. This was reported by numerous newspapers on Monday.
Specific drink instruction
28-year-old Michael Brockie then sued PwC for alleged negligence, the Guardian reported, for example, after suffering a brain injury while on a round of various pubs with colleagues after work. According to the lawsuit, he still suffers from persistent cognitive symptoms and may develop epilepsy.
Workers were supposed to have their drinks with as few sips as possible on the tour – special cards had been distributed in advance in the office for the best ones, on which the drink results were recorded.
Fatal message from the boss
Brockie was eventually so drunk that he couldn’t remember the trip after 10 pm and was later found on the street with a serious head injury. His first memory came about four weeks later.
The lawsuit against PwC alleges that there was intense pressure to attend the event and to follow the rules of the event, which involved a lot of alcohol.
According to the documents, the original invitation from a PwC manager stated, “I expect absolute attendance from everyone who attended last year’s invitation. Only a certified and countersigned letter from a recognized physician will suffice as an excuse.”
Bash ends after seven years
Brockie had also attended the 2018 version of the “pub” event. PwC ended the annual hullabaloo – which had been going on for about seven years – after the injury.
The employee is now suing PwC, where he is still employed, for more than £200,000 and is demanding that further future payments be made available.
PwC has not yet filed a defense to the suit. “We are not in a position to comment on the details of a matter that is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings,” PwC only said in a statement.
“As a responsible employer, we are committed to creating a safe, healthy and inclusive culture for all of our employees. We also expect everyone who participates in social events to act responsibly and ensure their own safety and that of others,” the statement continued.
Action in Switzerland
What can be derived from the case for Switzerland? First, such a matter could also affect Swiss corporations with subsidiaries abroad. In some areas, such “old boys’ club” nights that carry a certain tradition.
Companies in this country should therefore consider adapting their work instructions for celebrations or employer-initiated events for units abroad, if they have not already done so. At the very least, if alcohol or even drugs are involved, things can get dicey for the companies.
Those responsible in the companies must pay attention to this: A cozy get-together – yes; a binge – no!
Penalty in another industry
And in March, Lloyd’s of London, an association of insurers, fined one of its member firms for mishandling a bullying and harassment case and hosting an inappropriate “boys’ night out” event with excessive drinking and inappropriate games for new employees.
So, such boozy binges don’t just affect auditors. And at one Swedish company, employees have even had to sign a waiver that the Christmas party with colleagues is a private matter.