Canada: The Company Christmas Party – What Are The Employer's Obligations?

It's a Friday night in December. The employees of Party-Hearty Inc. are excited, because tonight is their company Christmas Party. Management has taken pains to organize a very special evening to show their thanks to the staff for their efforts over the last year. On tap: cocktails, dinner and dancing!

At around 6:00 p.m. the employees arrive at Restaurant ¡Hola! which has been reserved for the evening. Champagne begins to flow and everyone is clearly enjoying themselves.

The evening is now well underway. Tony sees his colleague Annie near the bar and resolves to go over and chat. He's been secretly in love her for months and decides that tonight he's finally going to reveal his feelings. He says hello, offers her a drink, then slips his arm around her waist and pats her on the buttocks. Ill at ease, Annie laughs nervously and awkwardly tries to extricate herself from Tony's grasp. Oblivious, Tony tells her how beautiful she looks tonight and how much he wants to kiss her. He leans in to meet her lips, but instead gets a slap in the face.

This contretemps does not go unnoticed, and Burt intervenes to rescue his colleague Annie. Tony and Burt have words, and then Burt pushes Tony, who falls back and breaks the mirror over the bar, as well as a tray of wine glasses and several bottles of liquor.

Francine, the human resources manager of Party-Hearty Inc., quickly steps in and separates the two protagonists, deciding there and then that the party is over.

Cheryl, another staff member, offers to help clean up the mess caused by the altercation. Unfortunately, she slips on the alcohol-drenched floor and falls, badly injuring herself. She appears to have fractured her hip, so 911 is called and Cheryl is soon off to the hospital in an ambulance.

The evening is clearly a disaster. "What else could go wrong?" Francine wonders. Mercifully, she tells herself, everyone is on their way out and nothing more untoward could happen... 

Dan, another employee of Party-Hearty Inc., is anxious to get home. He realizes he has had too much Champagne and feels dizzy. He knows he shouldn't drive home, but soon realizes he has no other options. Restaurant ¡Hola! is in an isolated part of the city, not served by public transit. He tries calling a taxi, but without success (taxis are in high demand on Friday nights in December, due to all the Christmas parties on those evenings). His employer has not bothered to arrange for shuttles or other alternative modes of transport.

Dan takes out his car keys and resolves to drive slowly and carefully. Unfortunately, as he is nearing home, he badly miscalculates a left turn, resulting in a jarring collision with another vehicle. Dan sustains multiple fractures, and the other driver is seriously injured as well. Both vehicles are a total write-off.

On Monday morning, human resources manager Francine arrives at the office and turns on her computer. She then finds that she has received the following documents:

  • a harassment complaint from Annie;
  • a demand letter from Restaurant ¡Hola! claiming $5,000 compensation for the damage caused by Tony and Burt;
  • a claim from Cheryl for a work-related injury;
  • an email informing her of Dan's automobile accident.

Obviously distraught, Francine asks herself the following four questions:

1. Do I have to conduct an investigation into the sexual harassment complaint?

Yes! Even though the facts underlying the complaint transpired outside the workplace and after office hours, the employer must conduct an investigation in such circumstances.

As part of the investigation, the employer's representative will have to meet with the complainant, Annie, the person implicated, Tony, as well as any witnesses to the incident (should Annie and Tony's versions of events be contradictory).

The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether the conduct complained of fits the definition of harassment under the Labour Standards Act, i.e.:

  • vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated verbal comments, actions or gestures;
  • that are hostile or unwanted;
  • that affect an employee's dignity or psychological or physical integrity;
  • and result in a harmful work environment.

It has been established that even though the offensive behaviour took place outside the workplace, if its effect was to render the work environment harmful, it could constitute harassment under the Act (if the other criteria thereunder are met).

By 2015, every employer should have adopted a harassment policy informing employees that any type of harassment is unacceptable and explaining their rights and obligations in that regard.

2. Does Cheryl's work-related injury claim have any chance of success?

There is little likelihood of Cheryl's claim being allowed by the CSST, Quebec's worker's compensation board. The Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLT), Quebec's occupational injuries board, has recognized on more than one occasion1 that accidents occurring during a company Christmas Party or in preparation for it are not eligible for CSST compensation, because the injury cannot be said to have occurred during or due to work. Because the Christmas Party was an event to which the employees were invited but not obliged to attend, Cheryl's attempt to help out was voluntary and personal.

It is important to note however that the CLP has also concluded that a certain employee was indeed injured "in the course of her employment" when taking part in a game during her employer's Christmas Party2. Given the facts of the case, the CLP concluded that the employees' participation was an integral part of their employment activities.

In Cheryl's case, even if she cannot be considered to have suffered a work-related accident, she will nevertheless be missing several days of work and will thus be entitled to a sick leave as per the Labour Standards Act. If her employer has a group insurance plan for its employees, Cheryl could be entitled to disability benefits thereunder as well, provided she meets the eligibility conditions.

3. Is the claim of Restaurant ¡Hola! well founded?


Party-Hearty Inc. could be found liable in two ways.

First of all, under Article 1463 of the Civil Code of Québec, an employer can be held liable for harm caused by the fault of its employees in the performance of their duties. In this case however, the company can argue that Tony and Burt were not acting "in the performance of their duties" when they came to blows during the Christmas Party. Moreover, even if a court were to come to the opposite conclusion, which is unlikely, under Article 1463 CCQ the employer can recover from the employees in question whatever damages it is ordered to pay by the court.

In our view, however, Party-Hearty Inc. could be liable to the restaurant because of its contractual liability under Article 1458 CCQ. By virtue of having entered into a contract with the restaurant for the holding of its event, Party-Hearty Inc. could be found liable for the property damage and any other damage caused by the altercation between Tony and Burt.

In any event, whether the employer is sued as principal (Article 1463 CCQ) or as co-contractor (Article 1458 CCQ) it has the right to proceed in warranty against the two employees at fault, so that they can be held liable, at least in part, for the damage caused to the restaurant.

Finally, there are definitely grounds for conducting an investigation into the altercation in question, in order that disciplinary sanctions may be imposed on the person or persons at fault.

4. Could the company be sued on account of the road accident?

Quebec's Automobile Insurance Act creates an automatic no-fault compensation regime for bodily injury sustained in an automobile accident3.

With respect to property damage caused by an automobile, the Automobile Insurance Act provides that the vehicle's owner is liable, with certain exceptions. As for the driver of the vehicle, he or she is solidarily (jointly and severally) liable for the damage, again subject to certain exceptions. If the automobile involved belonged to Party-Hearty Inc. it could be liable for any damages.

It is thus unlikely, in this instance, that the employer will be sued and found liable for the damage (physical or material) caused by Dan's car accident.

In any event, an employer who organizes a Christmas Party is bound to act as a responsible host, particularly as regards alcohol consumption. The employer must always be mindful of its legal obligations under the Civil Code of Québec, the Labour Standards Act, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and take appropriate measures to protect the health, safety and dignity of its employees.

To that end, employers are strongly encouraged to take various measures to limit alcohol consumption and ensure their employees get home safely. For example, the employer can:

  • close the bar a couple of hours before the end of the party;
  • implement a coupon system for alcoholic beverages;
  • inform employees, or even offer them, various options for a safe return home (such as designated drivers, a "drive-you-home" service, refundable taxi fares, etc);
  • sensitize employees to the importance of consuming alcohol in moderation, etc.

All that having been said, employers are not alone in having such obligations, and employees should also be aware of theirs, and act responsibly!


While some may think that organizing a Christmas Party involves only social considerations, it is evident from the foregoing that party organizers must take into account several aspects connected to the employer's legal obligations. By keeping those obligations in mind, your efforts to organize a successful and liability-free party are likely to bear fruit.

On that note, we wish you a very successful Christmas Party!


1 See for example its decision in Desjardins v. EMD Construction Inc., 2007 QCCLP 496.

Fafard v. Commission scolaire des Trois-Lacs, 2014 QCCLP 6156

3 By contrast, if an individual is entitled to benefits or monetary compensation under, for example, the Act respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases, he or she must submit a claim. 

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

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
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).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.