eCaseNote 2013 No. 07

CHRISTMAS IN THE WORKHOUSE

(with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)
‘Twas Christmas in the Workhouse
The best day of the year
And the workers all was happy
For their guts was full of beer


Across the country this month, workplaces will be hosting seasonal parties for employees and guests. As part of a well-deserved thank you to employees, many employers will be making alcohol available at those events.
Along with the merriment and festive atmosphere comes a risk of liability. Though there is not an extensive history of social host liability in Canada, indications are that there are circumstances where a social host could be held liable. More to the point, an employer host more closely resembles a commercial host and there is a history in this country of commercial host liability. In fact, an employer host might be held to an even higher standard of care with respect to its employees and guests than a commercial host because of the host’s knowledge of them.
While it is impossible to eliminate these host risks, we remind employers that your knowledge of your employees and guests also presents opportunities to lessen your exposure. You are better positioned than a commercial host to take some simple, practical risk management steps. Here are some things to remember:

  • You can inform guests that they are not required to attend an event, but that if they do, drinking and driving will not be countenanced. Unlike a commercial host, you can insist that your guests take taxis and surrender car keys. Arrange and pay for cabs for everyone.
  • Do not distribute bottles of liquor as gifts. Give liquor store gift cards instead.
  • You are exposed to claims for the injuries an intoxicated employee or guest cause to themselves or to someone else. Impaired driving is not the only concern. A drunken guest leaving the party might stagger into the path of an oncoming car. Monitor alcohol consumption.
  • You should employ experienced servers who can detect intoxication. Empower servers to refuse to serve intoxicated guests.
  • Do not make alcohol available to guests known to have a drinking problem.


Following these few simple suggestions and using common sense will not guarantee that you can eliminate all exposures, but doing so will most assuredly reduce the likelihood of claims arising and increase the likelihood that your festive season is a merry one.

We at Benson Buffett wish you a peaceful holiday season and a prosperous 2014.

The comments contained in this eCaseNote provide general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. For more information or specific advice on matters of interest, please call our offices at (709) 579-2081.