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Can an employee be fired for showing up drunk?

March 31, 2004
by Israel Foulon LLP

Question: Can an employee be fired for showing up drunk?

Answer: Intoxication at work is not necessarily enough to justify dismissal. A formal warning must generally precede dismissal for intoxication unless this was an extremely serious incident. Whether a single incident of misconduct justifies dismissal depends on the specific circumstances of the situation.

Consideration must be given to the extent of the employee’s drunkenness and behaviour, the employee’s position and past service, the nature of the business, and whether there were any mitigating factors. Alleged intoxication will not support a dismissal with cause without sufficient proof.

Factors in determining whether an employee’s intoxication at work justifies dismissal include:

  • whether the drunkenness was prejudicial to the employer’s business interests;
  • whether the employer has condoned the behaviour in the past;
  • whether the employee endangered him/herself or other employees;
  • whether the performance of the employee was affected;
  • whether there is clear company policy or a term in the employment contract against such behaviour; and
  • whether there were serious consequences due to the intoxication

Consideration must also be given to human rights legislation as dismissal of an employee due to alcohol dependence may constitute discrimination based on a disability.

Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or pi@qtw38575.mywhc.ca. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today


Legal Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, which in all circumstances must be tailored to the specific facts of any problem. You should obtain a proper legal consultation in order to determine how this article applies to your specific situation. Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP to learn more at 416-640-1550.