When is Training Really Required?
So, you’re running your business and you think you’re doing OK. But do you really know if you’re training your employees in accordance with compliance laws? Turns out, you might not be...laws and rules about Food Safety and Alcohol Seller/Server (On AND Off-Premise) training are incredibly complex sometimes - and they differ widely between states, counties, and even towns; with many different layers of rules and regulations per type and location of your business.
There are three different broad classifications for training - Mandatory (required), Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits (not required but advantageous), and Voluntary (it’s up to you). But what do these classifications really mean - and what kind of impact can they have on your business?
Classifications of Training
- Mandatory - This means that you MUST train your employees. Some states, like Illinois’ BASSET program for safe alcohol sales and service, is state-mandated. That means that the ILCC (Illinois Liquor Control Commission) defines, approves, and regulates the training of alcohol seller/server training. Programs that are state mandated usually work like this: The agency will approve a list of providers (you can find these on your state agency’s website) to create training based on a very specific set of protocols. Each jurisdiction may have different rules about when an employee must take the training - before starting work, or within a specified time after starting work. After an employee finishes training, with some state agencies your training provider must report the successful completion to the agency. In those jurisdictions, if this doesn’t happen and the state doesn’t get the employees’ records, it’s like they never took the training, and you’re out of compliance! Sometimes though, the state doesn’t mandate the curriculum and leaves it up to county or local ordinance (city, village, township, etc). Mandatory means YOU HAVE TO COMPLY with ALL rules and regulations.
- Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits - This is kind of in-between voluntary and mandatory, and usually applies to Alcohol Seller/Server training. It means basically that although you’re not strictly required to train, you’ll WANT to. State agencies, just like with membership in a Responsible Vendor Program (RVP), often provide very appealing incentives - you’d be silly not to take them up on it! For example, in Texas, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) Code §106.14(a) is called “Safe Harbor”. If a business can prove that an employee who broke the law (by serving an underage customer, a non-member of a private club, or an intoxicated person) WAS actually TRAINED in the voluntary TABC certified alcohol seller/server training, then licensees (referred to as permittees in TX) are protected from civil and criminal charges, as well as TABC fines, penalties, and license suspension or revocation. The actions of a trained employee will NOT affect the business. This benefit is so good that training in Texas is widely perceived as mandatory - even though it’s not.
Another reason employers train voluntarily is that some states have seriously strict Dram Shop Liability laws, which can put you on the hook for civil lawsuits and criminal charges. Any one of those could mean the end of your business. When faced with those risks, training starts to look REALLY friendly!
- Voluntary - This means that your state and/or local jurisdictions are leaving the choice to you. Now, many businesses will establish their own policies that training is still “required” for best practices and the safety of the public. If something happened at your establishment such as a foodborne illness outbreak, or over-serving an intoxicated customer, you DON’T want to be caught looking unprepared, operating a risky business, or taking chances with people’s health and safety.
- On-Premise vs. Off-Premise - There’s a distinction that needs to be called out here. Depending on whether your business sells alcohol to be consumed elsewhere (Off-Premise), or serves alcohol to be consumed in the establishment (On-Premise) regulations can differ. Remember Illinois’ BASSET training? On-Premise establishments are strictly mandated to train seller/servers, but Off-Premise businesses (e.g. convenience stores, liquor stores, etc) are exempt - at the STATE level...but local ordinances might have other ideas and REQUIRE training for Off-Premise establishments.
Rules and regulations for training may change from town-to-town, county-to-county, and state-to-state. Make sure your training provider knows what your local rules are - for every business type and location you have. Aside from civil and criminal liability, public perception of your reputation in the community has far-reaching consequences; and ultimately it’s the customers that keep us in business. If they don’t come back, we can’t keep the doors open!
Click here to download our eBook “Challenges & Opportunities: Regulatory Compliance Training in the Food & Beverage Industry” to deepen your knowledge about the array of risks, challenges, and consequences - and let us help you with training, tools, and an action plan to mitigate any danger to your business!