PwC auditor sues for head injury over ‘pub golf’ event at work

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A PricewaterhouseCoopers auditor in England is suing the company for serious injuries he suffered at a work event that “made a competitive virtue” of “excessive” drinking, according to the lawsuit.

In April 2019, Michael Brockie took part in a PwC ‘pub golf’ event, in which attendees were supposed to visit nine bars, each representing a hole, according to the Financial Times, which first reported on the affair. . Employees were supposed to finish their drinks in as few sips as possible to get the lowest score.

Brockie says he became drunk enough to pass out and lose his memory of the night after 10 p.m.; he was later found lying in the street with a serious head injury. Brockie was in a coma for several weeks and had part of his skull removed as a result of his injuries. He returned to work after six months, but he still suffers from “persistent cognitive symptoms” and is at risk of developing epilepsy, according to the Financial Times.

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“Doctors and police came to the conclusion that I fell and didn’t use my hands to break the fall, so I ended up banging my head on the ground,” Brockie told ITV after the incident. “The next thing I remember was four weeks later.”

A PwC spokesperson said the company could not comment on “a matter that is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”

“As a responsible employer, we are committed to providing a safe, healthy and inclusive culture for all of our employees,” PwC said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We also expect anyone attending social events to be responsible and ensure their own safety and that of others.”

The case, filed in the High Court in London, is one of the latest to highlight the entrenchment of drinking in the UK’s white-collar work culture. In March, insurance market Lloyd’s of London fined member firm Atrium Underwriters a record £1million fine for “serious failures”, including a “boys night out” where employees, including two executives superiors, “took part in inappropriate initiation games and excessive alcohol consumption”. , and makes sexual comments about female colleagues,” the Guardian reported.

In 2021, an Ernst & Young partner quit after being fined thousands of pounds for sexually harassing a female colleague on a company ski trip where employees had been drinking. And in the wake of #MeToo, some companies have introduced “alcohol chaperones” or “sober supervisors” at corporate events in the hopes of reducing misconduct and creating cultures where alcohol is n is not a focal point.

Peter Bamberger, vice president of the Academy of Management and professor at Tel Aviv University and Cornell University’s Smithers Institute, has studied alcohol consumption in and around the workplace for decades.

People perceive alcohol as a social lubricant, Bamberger said, which motivates them to drink in the hopes of interacting more comfortably with co-workers, whether alcohol makes things better or not. And in some industries, alcohol consumption is embedded in the culture of dealmaking.

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“In many professional workplace interactions, drinking is a way to build trust,” Bamberger said. Among salespeople, for example, “very often the sales process begins with drinking episodes where everyone puts themselves in danger”.

Employees were under ‘great pressure’ to attend the PwC pub golf event, a celebration of the end of the ‘busy season’ hosted by Brockie’s manager at the company’s Reading office, according to reports from the Guardian.

“I expect absolute participation from everyone who attended last year’s invitation,” read the emailed invitation, according to the Guardian. “Nothing less than a letter certified and countersigned by an accredited physician will suffice as an excuse.”

The manager “failed to take reasonable precautions for the safety of his colleagues” during the event, according to the lawsuit, noting that another PwC employee suffered a serious injury in 2016. The company called a halt to the multi-year event after Brockie was injured in 2019, the Guardian reported.

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Brockie is seeking damages of 200,000 pounds (about $235,000) as well as an order that would entitle him to more payments in the future, according to the Financial Times.

Boyes Turner LLP, the law firm representing Brockie, did not respond to requests for comment from the Post.

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