Can an Employee Who Comes to Work Intoxicated be Terminated for Cause?

If an employee is intoxicated while at work, this is a serious breach of the employment contract. Not only is the employee unfit to perform the duties of the employment contract, the employee is often a disruptive or demoralizing influence in the workplace, and an embarrassment to the employer if in contact with the public.
There are a number of cases upholding terminations for just cause based upon the intoxication of the employee, although the facts of each case must be carefully scrutinized to assess the magnitude of the breach or the particular contract of employment.
An employer may be justified in terminating an employee without notice based upon a single incident of intoxication. This will likely be the case where the individual is employed in a position where the safety of co-workers and/or the public at large depend upon his decisions and his actions.
The mere fact that an employee exhibits signs of alcohol consumption, while at work, will not in and of itself likely justify dismissal unless it can be shown that the consumption of alcohol negatively impacted upon the employee’s ability to perform his job.
In determining whether the circumstances of the case justify dismissal for cause, the Courts have considered some or all of the following factors:
  1. The potential of physical injury to the intoxicated employee and to others;
  2. The injury, or potential injury to the employer’s interest or reputation caused by the intoxicated employee;
  3. The length and quality of the past service provided by the employee;
  4. Any personal circumstances which have given rise to the inappropriate conduct; and
  5. The extent to which the intoxication was accepted by the employer, particularly where alcohol and entertaining are a normal part of the business day.
Except where the employee is suffering from alcoholism, which has been found to be a disability and therefore one is protected from discrimination.

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