Office Holiday Parties and Liability of Business Owners

December is a festive time of year. Often times, company holiday parties are a way for company owners to show their appreciation to their staff and spouses for the work that they do all year. However, there are important considerations to take into account when hosting a holiday office party.

In Ontario, business owners have been found liable for holiday parties that get out of control and cause injury to their employees. Typically, a business owner will have allowed consumption of alcohol on the work premises without any monitoring. The courts in Ontario have ruled that businesses allowing this type of behaviour will be treated much like the bar or tavern and therefore, liability can be attributed for over-service.

In order to have a safe holiday party, it is recommended that a business host their holiday party at an off-site location such as a banquet hall or restaurant. The banquet hall or restaurant has a liquor license and employees are specifically trained to monitor the responsible consumption of alcohol. This will ensure that employees are not served to an extent where they are a danger to themselves or others.

If, for some reason, you still wish to host your holiday party at your place of business, consider hiring an outside catering company or bartending service to monitor and control the flow of alcohol. Again, any situation involving self-service or non-trained service of alcohol could result in a finding of liability against your company.

Additionally, a business may wish to offer their employees a ride home. Taxi-chits at the door of the party are a great way to ensure that employees get home safely and can celebrate responsibly.

About the Authors


The son of a grocery store clerk, Kevin grew up outside of Perth, Ontario. He credits his humble beginnings with the development of his underdog mentality, an approach he has carried into his legal career.

He attended McMaster University for two years before being granted early admission to Osgoode Hall Law School. After being called to the bar in 2008, Kevin began practising law in Hamilton before joining a leading Toronto litigation firm, representing Canada’s largest insurance companies on personal injury actions. “I didn’t find it fulfilling,” Kevin recalls. “I was helping companies save money, when what I wanted to do was help the people going up against these major corporations.” Since joining Oatley Vigmond, Kevin has used his insurance-industry experience to protect his clients and recover the compensation they deserved. He’d been at Oatley Vigmond for two months when he settled a matter for a client at a mediation. “You felt the burden of the litigation, and her injuries, lifting off her. I wanted to help even more people experience the relief of having their uncertainty lifted.’”

To learn more about Kevin, please click here.