Precautionary Measures for Holiday PartiesDecember 13th, 2016
HÉLÈNE FORTIN, Lawyer | Montreal
Holidays are just around the corner and for the occasion, many companies decide to celebrate this time of year with employees. Precautionary measures must be taken in order to reduce the employer’s responsibility.
Be aware of the alcohol consumption of each guest. For instance, use a coupon system to monitor alcohol consumption or hire a certified bartender instead of giving free access to the bar. Close the bar one hour before the end of the party, and offer non-alcoholic beverages.
Ask the bartender to stop serving any employee showing signs of intoxication or impairment, and avoid any drinking games or shooter contest.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages
Make sure to offer food while serving alcohol, to prevent the employees from drinking on an empty stomach. Tell the waiters to constantly fill out the water glasses. Offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages: sparkling water, juices, soft drinks, etc.
Avoid hosting a party at the office. People are less inclined to abuse in public spaces such as restaurants.
Organize the event in a hotel or a restaurant, where the commercial host with a license will have the main responsibility to provide you with a qualified staff responsible for serving alcohol and monitoring alcohol consumption. Make sure the commercial host has its own liability insurance. A company party hosted in a commercial space will not free the employer from any duty of care; however, it will allow a better control over the alcohol consumption and will reduce the employer’s responsibility.
Gather a team of people in charge who will ensure that the party runs smoothly. The team shall monitor the alcohol consumption and intervene if necessary. For instance, ask the supervisors and the directors to be part of the team and give them the authority to stop serving alcohol and force an employee to take a taxi home.
Advise your employees against drinking and driving on the night of the party. Informed them about the other options at their disposition. Encourage them to drink with moderation and remind them that driving under influence is illegal.
Many options are available: designated drivers, a ‘‘drive-you-home’’ service, rent a machine that measures alcohol level, give out taxi coupons or ask all employees to hand in their car keys upon arrival. Make sure the employees are aware of all these options in advance, in order for them to leave their car home.
If you have reasons to believe that an employee has the intention of driving under influence, confiscate his/her keys and call a taxi to bring him/her home (or ask the employees to hand in their car keys at the coat check upon arrival; they will be able to get them back at the end of the night, if their state allows it). What actions can you take if an intoxicated employee insists on driving his/her car? Tell him/her that you will call the police and do it if he/she keeps on insisting.
Don’t hesitate to sanction employees, if necessary. Otherwise, some situations could backfire. For instance, an employee embarrassed or humiliated during the party might not come back to work. The commercial host can also claim damages to the employer if an employee did any damages to the property, resulting in the image of the company being tarnished.
Civility vs. harassment
Remind your employees that they must respect the company’s civil policies on harassment at any event hosted outside of office hours and workspace. Give examples of unacceptable and acceptable behaviors. Privacy
Respect your employees’ private life. Be careful with the photos you take and with what is posted or said in the social medias. Your employees are entitled to their privacy.
The responsibilities of the employer are more numerous than you may think. Contact our team for more information.