It’s that time of year again! Holiday parties are in full swing. While the focus is on celebration and cheer, employers must keep in mind that without proper planning, the celebrations may result in legal liability.
Aside from excessive drinking at work functions, the most common legal issue employers face is sexual harassment, an issue that has garnered much attention in 2017.
In Ontario, Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act, which became law in 2016, brought workplace sexual harassment within the realm of occupational health and safety. Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”), an employer is obligated to maintain a harassment-free workplace. A “workplace” includes work-related social events. Specifically, employers are mandated to have in place a policy and program related to harassment (which includes sexual harassment) and to provide related training to their employees.
With the casual environment of the office party, often combined with alcohol, employers may reduce the risks associated with harassment by considering the following:
Angela Khoury is an employment lawyer and associate at Singh Lamarche LLP. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 647-799-0499.