When Utah passed its Dram Shop Act in 1981, the new law reflected a trend already taking place in the courts - namely, that establishments serving liquor, their owners, managers, and servers, could be subject to lawsuits if they sold drinks to an already intoxicated person.
Unfortunately, the act failed to adequately protect employees who might get into trouble for trying to obey it, something the Legislature has now recognized.Under the law, third parties could file suit against such places if a drunken person subsequently caused them an injury as the result of an auto accident or some other mishap.
After the law was passed, seminars were held for liquor servers to acquaint them with its requirements. Training also routinely is given to help servers determine when a customer has had too much to drink.
Yet the legislation failed to cover one possibility - what to do if a server decides a customer has had enough, but the customer doesn't agree and the manager backs up the customer.
At that point, the server is in a real dilemma. If he obeys the law and refuses to sell the intoxicated customer another drink, he could be fired. If he obeys the boss, he leaves himself open for a possible lawsuit.
This problem arose last fall when a cocktail waitress in a Salt Lake club was fired for refusing to serve alcohol to a patron who she thought was drunk. It wasn't fair, but state law did not cover the situation.
The Utah Senate, in a 24-0 vote, did the right thing this week in approving a bill that would give job protection to someone fired under such circumstances. It provides for appeals to be made to the State Industrial Commission's anti-discrimination division.
No one should be punished for upholding the law. The House should follow the Senate example and give the measure enthusiastic support.