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Can I dismiss an employee who reports to work drunk?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2023 | Employment Law For Employers |

As a general starting point, California is an at-will employment state. This means you can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason (or without a reason) during the employment period. However, you cannot terminate an employee on discriminatory grounds. If you do, you may have a wrongful dismissal claim to deal with. 

Being drunk on the job can impact everyone – the intoxicated employee, their co-workers, the business and the clients. This is especially true in high-risk occupations like driving or roles that require utmost situational awareness. So what do you do with an employee who shows up drunk or tipsy?

What the law says

California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) considers intoxication at work an act of serious misconduct. Specifically, EDD describes an intoxicated employee as one who uses an alcoholic beverage or distilled spirits or hallucinogenic substances that impact the normal functioning of the central nervous system during working hours.

Dismissing an employee on grounds of intoxication

The law allows you to dismiss an employee who uses controlled substances, thus, violating the standards of behavior expected of them during work hours on grounds of misconduct. While taking such action, however, it is important to ensure the following:

  • That your workplace policies and employment contracts clearly articulate what you expect of your employees
  • Obtain sufficient evidence of the misconduct. For instance, it may be helpful to subject the employee in question to a drug test and have this on record in case they file a wrongful dismissal claim against you. 

Alcohol and the workplace rarely mix. No matter what they do, employees should never report to work drunk or drink on the job. Learning more about California labor laws can help you safeguard your business’ interests while dealing with employee misconduct.