Each year, many employers take advantage of the holiday season
to thank their employees by organizing an event. The festive and
friendly atmosphere of such an event may be conducive to situations
of discrimination or harassment. As such, it is important for
employers to take the necessary precautions in order to avoid
complaints and potential liability.
The Act Respecting Labour
Standards of Quebec imposes on employers the
obligation to prevent psychological harassment and to put a stop to
any such behaviour which is brought to its attention. This
obligation extends to all social events organized by an employer,
notwithstanding the hour or the location of the event. Several
measures may be taken before the event in order to reduce the risk
of situations of harassment, namely :
Remind employees of the company's code of conduct;
Promote the adoption of professional behaviour among management
Limit the consumption of alcohol;
Avoid embarrassing games or games of a sexual nature;
Invite employees' spouses;
Prepare a seating plan of the tables in order to determine in
advance which employees will be sitting together during the meal,
as the case may be.
In addition, during the event, some employees can be designated
to react quickly to situations susceptible to escalate. It is
important to note that an employee's inappropriate
behaviour during an event may be sanctioned by the employer and
this, even if the act was committed outside working hours and
outside the workplace (Association internationale des
machinistes et des travailleuses et travailleurs de
l'aérospatiale, district 140, Local 2309 et
Servisair (A. Minassian), D.T.E. 2009T-448 (T.A.)).
Recently, Canadian common law courts recognized the liability of
an employer who allowed an employee to leave an event in a drunken
state and who was in a car accident. (Jacobsen v. Nike Canada
Ltd.,133 D.L.R. (4th) 377 (1996)).
However, this situation is different in Quebec as a result of the
legislative regime of the indemnification of victims, without
regard to fault. That being said, all employers have a duty to
protect the health and safety of its employees and this, even
outside the workplace. In order to ensure that employees arrive
home safely, it is important to implement the following
Restrict the consumption of alcohol by implementing a coupon
system, by offering non-alcoholic beverages or by reducing the
amount of time that alcohol is served;
Designate certain employees to discretely oversee the
consumption of alcohol of attendees;
Invite employees to obtain taxi coupons before the event, at
the cost of the employer;
Remind employees during the evening of different available
services such as public transportation, Operation Red Nose, taxi and
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).