Drunkeness at work


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
The ''Drunk Dishwasher'' thread brought up a question I'd like to get everyone's advice on. We have a manager, who I know gets drunk at work. I am not talking a drink towards the end of the night, I am talking pretty well liquored up. The problem is, I can't catch this person in the act, and of course she denys it completely. How would you deal with this? Is it legal to demand she submit to a breath test? Is it legal to send her home if I can't prove it and she denys it? Or do I have to let this continue until I catch her red-handed or she ends up hurting herself or others?
Joined Jul 31, 2000
This is a sensitive issue that must be approached by the book.

You have to have just cause to demand a drug test (after someone is already on board)I have had to deal with similar issues.I went to my HR for advice.I was told to keep my eyes open for change in behavior,work habits and the like and document these occurences.In one case a worker seemed very lucid or very "upbeat) after her break in the afternoon.Some of my associates complained that she seemed a bit "out there"

Whet I did was call the State as well as the legal department for the company I work for and asked for further advice.My approach was to sit down with her and very calmly and respectivly say that I was concerned and wondered how things are going for her. I told her that she seemed "un connected"with the kitchen and was skipping a beat or two on producuton and line work.

I was able to send her a health clinic by telling her I was very concerned with her and I wanted her to talk to a counseler.

Now,the counseler would interview the employee and only subject them to a drug test if they felt her behavior warranted it.

In this case it did not,and it turns out she was dealing with treamedous personal issues and had no one to help her deal with these problems.They built up so much in her head that it effected her overall ability to perform.

My advice to you is seek advice from your HR rep and document everything you can.You can interview other employees as well.

Also,inventory you liquer each shift and be sure only the appropriate employees have access to it.

With that said, if the manager seems stone drunk and poses safty risks to herself and her co workers you can send her home and explain your reasoning and take it up with her the next day (being intoxicated is grounds for termination)
Good luck
Joined May 9, 2003
Well...I agree with the by the book stuff, but it's long and tedious and a little imagination can expedite the process.

My wife and I just had our first child and I've had ALL kinds of ideas for that Closed circuit, night vision TV baby moniter:D

Probably wouldn't hold up in court and may seem a little "big Brother" to some, but it may lead you to a stash of grain alcohol that you can use for further persecution.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
I can't wait to see how you handle this. I've noticed this behavior with several co-workers over the years, it's frustrating at times. They do a total personality switch halfway thru their shift, it's pretty obvious. It's not that hard to catch them in the act once they've gotten drunk, they stop looking over their shoulders.

Can you tip off the local police so that when they leave work drunk their not driving drunk too?

Also I think it's legal to video people with-out their knowledge but you can't tape record their voice, that is illegal. I think that's ideal, if you can catch them doing it many times, they can't denie it or excuse it.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
The ONE time I fired a waitperson for drunkenness, I ended up having to pay unemployment.
Years ago now, I had a waitperson who was known to have a drinking problem but seemed to be able to stay sober during their shift. One night they came in TANKED! Stumbling drunk, insulting the customers, screwing up the orders. I got a complaint from a regular customer on how bad the service was, etc, etc. So I fired them. They filed for unemployment ins. I sent my reply saying they were terminated for inability to perform their job duties due to being drunk. The benefits were initially denied till the person appealed the ruling and demanded proof of their drunkenness! I contacted the customers that said they were waited on by that person, and when it turned to making a deposition as to whether the person was drunk or not, I was told since they were not medical professionals and since the person was not tested on the spot they could not be CERTAIN the person was drunk. Even though they SAW the behavior, SMELLED the booze. If you would have read the waitpersons deposition you could have thought them to rarely ever taken a drink! So the waiter won the appeal, and in effect gave them a paid drinking vacation for a few weeks.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Document everything! Or as I have learned since then- Terminate someone for just about anything else: lateness. mistakes on the job, anything TANGIBLE and DOCUMENTABLE! Drunks when they are not drunk tend to be highly intelligent people. Even the craziest alcoholics seem to know to deal with legal matters sober.
Joined May 22, 2003
I think there also might have to be a sign saying that video recording equipment is being used for security purposes. Though it is something to look into.

I agree with the alcohol inventory per shift. They started that where I work, and from the time it was initiated alcohol consumption by employees on the clock dropped to almost nil. I say almost because there are still ways around it that two people found, but they were suspended and fired. We have it covered in our employee handbook saying drinking on the job is immediate termination.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
When DH worked at the fine dining restaurant of Mesa Verde National Park, there was a sous chef (and I use the term loosely) who bellied up to the service bar each and every night - especially when he was left in charge. DH found it very frustrating but the management knew all about it and looked the other way.

I think an owner would not tolerate this because it makes workers' comp rates go through the roof if an employee gets injured and was discovered to be drunk on the job.
Joined Jan 24, 2003
Fortunately I live in a non litigation culture.So if we get drunks or spacers we can just drag em in the back alley & give em a slap.
p.s. dont hire a guy called Charles Bukowski if he comes looking for a potwash job, hes unreliable & I understand he likes his oil.

Joined Jan 15, 2001
This definitely is a sore subject with me. At my former job 2 or 3 of the kitchen guys would come in drunk(not to mention the delivery guy!!)and management would look the other way, since after all, they didn't have proof. What does it take, the delivery guy getting into a car accident and possibly hurting someone?!
Joined Jan 11, 2002
Although I don't know in details the American law, I agree it's hard and dangerous to fire someone because it's drunk without having real proofs- and most proofs cannot be acquired unless you're legally authorized to do so. So, I think there are three possible ways:

1)Since alcohol addicts generally deny their addiction against any evidence, you have to wait her to become depressed - that could happen, sooner or later. When you see she is clearly looking for some help, speak with her...but don't do that before, or she'll tell you to f*ck off.

2)Otherwise you have to wait her to do something inappropriate or illegal (i.e. insulting or hitting a customer or another worker, breaking objects, being absent at work without a justification), obtain proofs and depositions suitable for a legal proceeding, and THEN fire her.

3)If you have a good friend working in the police, maybe you could have her stopped by a patrol and submitted to a breath test when she's just gone out of work and got into her car;)

Joined Jan 24, 2003
hey Pongi,

You forgot the fourth Italian option....have her sleep with the fishes....!!!!

Joined Nov 10, 2001
I once had the misfortune to be in a kitchen when someone got totally wrecked.Apart from sounding like a gibbering idiot,this person posed a serious safety hazard.He was subsequently fired because he got sloshed once too often.One of the top bosses saw this person stagger out to their car one night.
Drinking at work,in my opinion,isn`t worth the bother.

The onus of proof can be a pain in the other end as well.
A London hotel has had to pay a former maitre d` £23,000 for unfair dismissal.The hotel claimed the former employee was seen drinking in a pub during working hours.They,the hotel`s management, failed to follow their own disciplinary procedures.They also were unable to provide irrefutable evidence to support their case.
Joined Jul 18, 2000
its interesting to note that video surveillance in the US is actuallly ok. In Aus (well at least in NSW), there is legislation that clearly states that overt camera's are ok as long as they are clearly visible.

Covert surveillance is a nother thing altogether. Legislation clearly states that covert camera's evidence is inadmissable in court if there has been no notification of staff or signage posted.

Privacy is also considered with regards to change rooms.

With regards to drunkeness at work, i think full blown drunkeness should not and cannot be tolerated. Consider the philosophical question of "the needs of the many v's the needs of the few" (to quote star trek, heh).

As well as that aspect, there is a primary duty of care to all in your premises and occupational health and safety issues as well.

Once again we find ourselves back in the situation of a litigious society, and, possibly, there is defence in the concept of "hazard control and/or hazard removal".

As for the refusal to take a breath test, you could (at the time) say to the employee, "if you dont have anything to hide, then take the test".

Just remember, there is a large onus on procedural fairness in HR these days, and its presence is to make an equitable system for all and also to prevent litigation or industrial unrest.
Joined Jun 18, 2003
I can relate with the whole drunk dishwasher.
I had to call in temps one event and the dishwasher
was drunk or drugged or maybe both. she spent the
first two hours looking for her purse. she didnt come in with one.
then proceeded to cry and was sure one of our staff had taken it.
I also am having a problem with full wine bottles showing up in the strangest places. I have found them out by a tree. in between
the screen door and regular door, under tables, ect. I have a
pretty good idea who it is, but catching him in the act is something else. Or the employee who spends way too long in the
fridge with the booze. and you are just that half a second short
of catching them. frustrating it is.
Joined May 26, 2001
1. I did not read all the previous posts, because I have had too much wine tonight :blush: -- at home, not at work (although now, the two are the same).
2. I have never been in the position of supervising anyone when it was likely that someone might come in to work that way. I have of course worked alongside people who were not all there; but then it was just a question of keeping my station going and only jumping to cover theirs when absolutely necessary (and straightening their plating on the pass).

However: I worked under a sous chef* who sometimes came in drunk. Mostly we all ignored him at those times. One day I was fed up and told him "You're drunk. You're messing things up for us (the line). Get the F*** out of here." He didn't leave, but he did take it to heart, and never came in in that condition again.

*I should explain that before that, the first time he and I went out for a drink after work at a nearby bar where he was well-known, he introduced me to the server as "his mom." (I could have been; I met her eventually and we really hit it off!) Anyway, he meant it more than I ever imagined. Not that I straightened him out, but at least he never came in to work drunk again.
Top Bottom