Office Party Liability - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Friday, 08 December 2017

Office Party Liability

#AskJeremyDiamond

The season of twinkling lights, holiday decorations and, inevitably, office holiday parties has arrived. The office party is a time-honored holiday tradition bringing together co-workers to join in celebration. These gatherings, particularly when alcohol is served, can lead to legal entanglements and liability issues. Here are a few tips to help make your holiday office party a safe and liability-free celebration for all to enjoy.

Avoid serving alcohol

Employers who ban alcohol from holiday parties might be minimizing the risk of intoxicated guests acting inappropriately or being involved in a crash while driving themselves home, but they are not going to be popular. The law and the courts make a distinction between commercial establishments, such as bars and restaurants, selling drinks to customers and the social host having a holiday party for a few friends.

Courts have generally held commercial establishments to a higher standard when it comes to liability for injuries caused by or to an intoxicated customer. At least one court has refused to impose this level of liability upon individuals hosting a holiday party at their homes. Employers, however, might fall somewhere in between social hosts and commercial establishments.

An employer hosting a holiday party at which alcohol is served to employees could be liable for injuries suffered by someone who became intoxicated. Removing alcohol from the party eliminates the opportunity for liability issues to arise.

Limit access to alcohol

If alcohol is going to be a part of your company’s holiday office party, control the flow of liquor by hiring a bartender. Professional bartenders know how to recognize when a person has had enough to drink for the evening and can offer water or non-alcoholic alternatives.

Have a plan for when the party ends

When alcohol is served, there will be people who cannot drive themselves home. Employers should arrange for and pay the cost of taxi or ride-sharing services for those employees who have been drinking. It is cheaper than defending against a lawsuit if the person crashes a vehicle while trying to driving home.

Hold the party at a local restaurant

A restaurant with a license to serve alcohol is a commercial establishment and is responsible for monitoring the consumption of alcohol by its customers. The servers will take the burden away from the employer of having to cut off employees when they are showing signs of intoxication. However, employers who see an intoxicated employee putting themselves in a potentially dangerous situation, such as attempting to drive home, have a responsibility to stop the person. An employer in that situation should arrange for a safe ride home for the impaired employee.

Make it a family party

Inviting spouses can minimize some of the problems associated with holiday office parties. For example, it would be unusual for employees to engage in lewd or inappropriate behaviour within view of their spouses. Excessive drinking might also be curtailed when employees have a family member present watching them. A spouse could also serve as a designated driver and take the burden of arranging transportation for intoxicated workers away from the employer.

Help is available when accidents happen

Holiday office parties may offer an opportunity for co-workers to get together away from the normal work environment. Unfortunately, they can also pose a risk of someone being injured. Thepersonal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamondare available to help with claims for compensation by victims injured through the negligence and reckless conduct of others.Our 24/7 injury hotline is available at 1-800-567-HURT or you can visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices are located throughout Ontario.

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