In A Flash

Tips for Limiting Liability During the Holidays

With the holidays upon us, and employers are hosting their holiday parties, it is important to keep in mind that hosting these events can open the employer up to serious liabilities if the proper precautions are not taken.  Notably, employers should be aware of the risks associated with overconsumption of alcohol as well as the increased risk for harassment or assault related incidents.

This holiday season, employers should be alive to the fact that their employees may be impaired due to the effects of cannabis given the recent legalization of this substance.  Accordingly, steps should be taken to familiarize employees with workplace policies regarding the use of cannabis in the workplace or at workplace events, including any prohibitions that may exist, in order to ensure that employees are enjoying themselves responsibly and in line with company rules and expectations.

Further, those responsible for the celebration should be familiar with both the signs of alcohol and cannabis impairment and should be prepared to address any concerns about an individual’s level of impairment before the situation escalates.

The following are some useful steps that employers should take to ensure that all of their employees are able to enjoy the celebration in a safe and enjoyable environment.

  • If alcohol is to be served, a clear and unequivocal communication should be circulated to the employees about appropriate employee behavior. This includes a warning about overconsumption and a clear condemnation with respect to driving while intoxicated.
  • Plan the event so that entertainment or other activities are the primary focuses, and that the consumption of alcohol is only an incidental activity.
  • Ensure that the distribution of the alcohol is done by licensed professionals who are trained to spot the signs of intoxication.
  • Management should lead by example and respond to any concerns about impairment at the event.
  • Consider having the bar close an hour or two before the party ends.
  • Serve non-alcoholic drinks and food if alcohol is to be served at the event.
  • Ensure that there is a procedure for transporting impaired employees home. This may include providing taxi chits, reimbursement for transportation, or arranging designated drivers.  If transportation cannot be arranged, employers should arrange for the employee to stay at a local hotel.
  • Do not allow impaired guests to leave without an appropriate transportation option. If this cannot be stopped, call the police.

We wish you and your employees a safe and happy holiday season.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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