Responsibilities of an Employer in Connection with Alcohol Being Served at an Employment Function
James LeNoury LLP- CBHM's Employment and Labour Law Specialist, passed along this information to assist in updating our clients with important health and safety information
As the holiday season comes upon us, we look forward to festivities with family, friends and co-workers. Most employers are aware that hosting or sponsoring an event connected to their company comes with obligations to take steps assuring the safety of everyone, both at the event and on the trip home.
This article is to review the responsibilities of an employer in connection with alcohol being served at an employment function and to provide some guidance on best practices. This includes the impact of new cannabis laws that allow for lawful consumption of this intoxicant.
The essential premise of the law in Ontario is that an office party, regardless of where it is held, is considered part of the workplace and the employer’s obligation to ensure a safe work environment continues to apply. In the context of a company party, it means that an employer must monitor the consumption of alcohol and determine whether the attendees are able to operate a motor vehicle. If it is determined that a person represents a safety risk, the employer must take steps to provide for an alternate mode of transportation.
The Complication of Cannabis
It is important to note that when alcohol and THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – are combined in the bloodstream, the level of intoxication increases significantly.
While we most often think of cannabis being consumed through smoking, it is also commonly consumed in edible form in a food or drink. The odour of cannabis can sometimes be detected on a person after smoking, but with consumption of edibles there are no obvious signs of cannabis use. For this reason, it is important to be especially vigilant in regard to observing signs of intoxication, even when alcohol consumption at your function has been limited by tickets or other means.
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The Flu Doesn't Affect Your Workplace Rights
As a worker in Ontario, you always have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives you certain fundamental rights, including:
- Your "right to know" about any potential hazards to which you may be exposed
- Your "right to participate," (to be involved) in identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns, and
- Your "right to refuse" unsafe work
Workers in certain occupations such as those responsible for public safety – fire fighters, police, correctional officers and health care workers, for example – have a limited right to refuse work; they can not refuse unsafe work if the alleged danger is considered to be a normal part of the job or if the refusal would endanger the health or safety of another person.
If you think that one of your co-workers has the flu, talk to your supervisor, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (if there is one), or your health and safety representative.
Workers involved in cleaning the workplace must be trained in the safe and appropriate use and handling of cleaning chemicals. Workers required to use personal protective equipment must be trained in the proper use, care and limitations of the equipment.
If you believe that your workplace is unsafe because of a communicable disease, explain your concerns to your supervisor or joint health and safety committee representative.
Your employment rights during a flu outbreak
Employees with concerns about the workplace should first raise any concerns with their employer, union or health and safety representative to discuss available options.
These options may include unpaid leave or sick leave.
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