It is time to organize the annual holiday party.  These events should be fun, but employers planning one have to be careful about social host liability.     

Any party that is:

  • Hosted, organized and/or paid for by the employer;
  • Held on company property;
  • Held during normal working hours; or
  • Seen to be facilitated or condoned by the employer;
  • Or any combination of the above.

is likely to be held to be a “company party” for which the employer could be held liable if injury is caused to any party participant or a party participant harms an innocent third party (e.g. has an accident on the way home).  This is true even if no members of “management” are in attendance or it’s not an official company party.

The keys to avoiding liability are to

  • set rules
  • communicate them to attendees and
  • actually enforce them.  

Additional measures that are wise to take include:

  • Limiting the number of free alcoholic drinks offered to guests
  • Not limiting the number of cab chits

A holiday party can still be fun, while being low risk for your organization.