A Spanish court has ordered an electrical company to either reinstate or pay $52,000 compensation to an employee who was sacked for drinking several bottles of beer on the job, saying geographical and climatic conditions compelled him to drink.
According to the high court in Murcia, it is not enough for the company to fire the staff for simply drinking, but it must prove that the alcohol got him so drunk that he could not perform his duties.
“At no time did the private detective make mentions of signs of inebriation or clumsiness when it came to walking. There is no proof – documentary, expert or witness – that unequivocally demonstrates that the man was under the effects of alcohol and was inebriated, intoxicated or drunk. Neither has it been proved, even circumstantially, that his physical and mental faculties were reduced or diminished during his tasks as an electrician, nor that he was impeded when he drove the company van at the end of the working day,” odditycentral.com quotes the court as saying.
The court went further to add that the geographical and climatic conditions of the time during which the employee did the drinking must be taken into consideration in deciding on the employee’s fate.
“Another factor to be borne in mind is that this relates to the month of July in Murcia and Cartagena, where the climatic conditions and the geographical habits should be considered.”
In the court’s view, an employer can only justifiably take adverse action against an employee who is caught drinking during work hours if the employer can prove beyond doubt that the employee was so drunk that he or she could not perform their duties safely.
“In September of 2021, the Spanish electrical company fired an electrician that had been with the company for 27 years after a private detective presented evidence that he had been constantly consuming alcohol on the job over several weeks. The private eye had been hired by the company to observe the sacked employee and his colleagues throughout the day, and he apparently observed them drinking copious amounts of beer all through the day.
In the electrician’s dismissal letter, the company mentions that on one occasion, he and one of his colleagues had been observed stopping for a drink at a bar at 8.27 am. At lunchtime that same day, the two were seen buying some food, four cans of San Miguel beer, and a litre bottle of Estrella de Levante beer. In the afternoon, the electrician was seen drinking another can of beer, and another at around 6:30 pm, before driving a company van back to base.
Two weeks later, the private detective reportedly saw the electrician and his colleagues drinking a total of seven litres of beer between morning and the end of their lunch break, as well as three cans of beer later in the day, before once again driving the company van. On another occasion, the man was seen drinking a can of beer, followed by 3 glasses of wine and a shot of pomace brandy,” odditycentral.com reports.
But the court said all that the company did was much ado about nothing.