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Enjoy the holiday party, but keep in mind your duties

Party planning committees at workplaces are currently planning holiday parties. In addition to figuring out fun locations and tasty menus, employers must be putting into place safeguards to protect employees who may be drinking or using cannabis at or prior to these events.

The basic premise that has been established vis à vis alcohol impairment cases is that it is the employer who is always accountable to ensure the health and safety of all employees at workplace events. In fact, courts have clarified that, due to the nature of the employer-employee relationship, the standard of care on an employer is higher than that on a bar owner or a social host.

How to protect your employees and yourself

What procedures or steps can an employer take prior to and during its holiday party? A few ideas: setting up a car key drop-off requirement, giving all employees cab chits to get home safely, having a contact list so that you can contact someone to come and take the employee home, to name a few. Over and above these basic steps, the employer will have to, if necessary, protect and physically stop any employee from hurting himself/herself or others.

Please note that in situations where employees are impaired, drive, and then get into a car accident after leaving a workplace event where alcohol was served, and there are significant injuries to the employees or others, employers have been found by the courts vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. In fact, courts have freely made awards for damages against employers in these types of cases. Cannabis cases may be a little different, if you are not serving cannabis at the party, but it is too early to tell. Best to take precautions.

Take advantage of our policy template!

Employers should be proactive in setting out procedures in a drug and alcohol policy that will be triggered if an employee is impaired, or if impairment is suspected, at a workplace-related event. Therefore, you will need to define “workplace” in your policy to cover these sorts of events, whether on or off premises. Disciplinary measures must also be specified. Your CFIB Counsellors will be happy to send you the CFIB template for a drug and alcohol policy, which has been prepared for us by the leading law firm Faskens.