At this time of year, many employers host seasonal celebrations to recognize the efforts of employees over the past year. While the majority of holiday parties proceed without incident, employers should be aware of the potential liability risk when hosting an event at which alcohol is served. When planning holiday events, consider the following strategies for promoting employee safety and minimizing employer liability:

  • Consider hosting an alcohol free event. If alcohol is provided, do not provide an open or unsupervised bar.
  • Before the event, inform employees that they must not drink and drive, and notify employees about arrangements that have been made to help them get home safely. 
  • Take steps to arrange safe transportation options for employees. Consider providing taxi vouchers, and do so at the outset of the event. 
  • Take steps to monitor alcohol consumption. Consider a ticket system to limit the number of drinks each person is able to obtain. You may also hire third party professional servers who will monitor and regulate alcohol consumption. 
  • Ensure plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages are available.
  • Select an event location that is close to public transit so that employees have an alternative to driving to and from the party.
  • Consider a system for employees to leave their keys with an attendant when arriving at the event, to avoid the situation of having to remove keys from an intoxicated employee at the end of the event.
  • Be prepared to deal with intoxicated employees immediately and not when they are about to leave the party. This may include removing an employee’s car keys and ensuring the employee is driven home safely.
  • Ensure that you have appropriate liability insurance in place.