Labour & Employment Law Blog

The Holiday Office Party Dilemma for Employers

The Holiday Office Party Dilemma for Employers

The holidays are around the corner and employers are understandably becoming more concerned about potential liability that could result from a holiday office party.  On one hand, employers would like to show their appreciation to their employees and an office party is a nice gesture to show that appreciation.  On the other hand, employers are wary of certain legal implications that may result from a holiday office party.  For instance, there may be issues related to harassment and / or damages or injury from alcohol consumption.

However, an employer need not simply forget about hosting a holiday party.  There are number of simple things that an employer could do to make a holiday office party a fun occasion while limiting the employer’s potential legal liability.

So what about harassment?

Employers are obligated to ensure that their workplace is free from harassment and, obviously, this would include holiday office parties.  Therefore, an employer’s workplace harassment policy would be still in effect during the course of any holiday office party that the employer hosts.  As such, the first step an employer could do before any holiday office party is to take place would be to remind all employees that the employer’s policies about harassment remain in place and apply to all work-related social events including holiday office parties.

The second step would be for an employer to monitor and limit the consumption of alcohol at the holiday party. As we all know, alcohol consumptions is correlated with bad behaviour.

Finally, the third step would be to take active steps once there is an incident of ostensible harassment.  This may mean that the employer needs to respond to the incident and to report any occurrence of inappropriate behaviour by an employee during the course of the holiday party.

Should the employer serve alcohol?

Employers are obligated to ensure that their workplace is safe for its employees and, obviously, this would include holiday office parties.  Therefore, an employer must also take steps to protect employees towards an employee’s consumption of alcohol during the course of a holiday office party.  For instance, employers could be held liable for damage or injuries caused by an inebriated employee who became that way because of the consumption of alcohol at a holiday office party.

Therefore, an employer is never to provide an “open bar” to employees.  Perhaps the employer should consider not serving alcohol at all at any of their social functions involving employees or others (like suppliers or business partners).  However, if the employer still chooses to serve alcohol they must ensure that they are licensed to serve alcohol and try to limit alcohol consumption.  For instance, it is common for employers to provide a limited set of “drink tickets” to employees, hire professional servers who are in charge of serving alcohol, or host the holiday office party at another location such as restaurant in order to limit their liability for serving alcohol.

Another idea is for employers to monitor their employees during the course of the holiday office party so that any employees who appear to be inebriated are “cut off” from further alcohol consumption.  For instance, the employer may select a few trusted employees who could be designated to watch out for inebriated employees and to ensure that those employees are not driving home.

Finally, employers should be strongly encouraged to offer paid transportation home from the event or office holiday party for all employees.

Office holiday parties can still be a fun-filled and festive event for both employers and employees.  Employers simply need to take several precautionary steps to ensure that the office holiday party is safe for all as well.

Happy Holidays from Zeilikman Law!

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.

Legal Receptionist

Zeilikman Law is an employment law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We are looking to hire a legal receptionist to join our firm. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience working as a receptionist at another law firm.

Location: Vaughan, Ontario.

Start Date: Immediately.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Full time. In-person only. This is not a remote work position.

Wages: 35,000 to 40,000 per year.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage our firm’s multi-line telephone system to receive incoming calls.  Screen incoming telephone call inquiries to determine the nature of the telephone call and provide standard information related to our legal services.  Take and deliver messages and route incoming telephone calls to the appropriate staff person.
  • Answer general inquiries coming from the firm’s social media and website email.
  • Welcome in-person visitors upon arrival.  Direct visitors to the appropriate staff person and / or office or boardroom.
  • Organize in-person visitor schedule to prevent overlap and multiple bookings.
  • Receive, sort, and distribute daily mail and deliveries.
  • Arrange for couriers.
  • Keep front reception, kitchenette area and boardroom tidy.
  • Perform various clerical duties such as filing, photocopying, and faxing on an as-needed basis.
  • Process client or other payments.
  • May be asked to run minor errands outside of office such as attending post office to arrange a courier or pick up mail.
  • May be asked to assist other law clerks or lawyers of the firm as required and as appropriate.
  • Any other basic administrative duties or tasks as deemed appropriate.

Required Skills:

  • Basic knowledge of general office procedures including filing, faxing, and printing and copying.
  • Basic word processing computer skills.
  • Proficient in receptionist and telephone practices, etiquette, and decorum.
  • Professional attitude and appearance.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Positive customer service attitude is a must.
  • Must be able to maintain confidential and sensitive information.

Education and Experience:

  • Highschool diploma or equivalent.
  • 1 – 2 years’ experience in an office setting with an emphasis in accounting, reception or clerical work is required.   We would prefer experience in a law firm environment.

Applications for this position should be sent via email to jennifer@zeilikmanlaw.com. All applications should include a cover letter, resume and at least two references. Only successful candidates will be contacted.