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Intoxicated employee wins $296,650 in damages

Unfair DismissalDecember 12, 2014

Intoxicated employee wins $296,650 in damages (Last Updated On: December 12, 2014)

A state manager who attended a work training conference the morning after a work function was sacked after he showed up drunk, behaved in an unacceptable manner and smelt of alcohol. However the employee has won his unfair dismissal case because the function was deemed to be work related.

Colleagues of Willis Australia Group Services Pty Ltd were drinking till the early hours of the morning and ‘the company’s practice to routinely meet the cost of alcohol consumed at employee gatherings, irrespective of quantity’ suggested that the staff were encouraged to drink to excess.

The employee was then locked out of his hotel room as he had misplaced his room key and spent the night on a bench in the hallway. The next morning he showed up to work ‘smelt of alcohol, spoke loudly, “lacked seriousness”, threw a lolly and made “animal noises”, though as a “means of conveying information about a recent safari’. His superiors saw this as a very bad example for junior staff.

NSW District Court found that the company Willis Australia Group Services Pty Ltd had unfairly dismissed the employee because he did not partake in any gross misconduct. Willis was forced to award the employee $296,650 — $99,092 in lost salary, $118,182 for his lost retention bonus, $48,620 in long service leave and $30,755 in interest.

If the employee had been aggressive, violent, used offensive language or negatively impacted the reputation of the company or cost the company significant financial loss this would have been considered gross misconduct and the dismissal would have been sound.

The employee had worked for the company for 9 years and this was the only time he had turned up for work intoxicated. The one off incident could not be justified as continued misconduct and the employee had no previous behavioural warnings.

If you are an employer, you need to be fully aware of the implications of alcohol at work functions. It is a good idea to control the number of drinks per head at a party or have restrictions on the bar tab. Staff should be fully aware of what is considered to be unacceptable behaviour.

If you have any questions relating to alcohol or staff behaviour at a work function call Employsure today. We can assist you in documenting issues that have arisen or implement policies and procedures into your employment contract or handbooks relating to the consumption of alcohol whilst at work or a work function. Call us today on 1300 651 415 or fill in the form below.

*Information sourced via Workplace Express Website.


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