Court Rules Company Was Wrong to Fire Electrician for Drinking on the Job

A Spanish court ruled that an electrical company was wrong to fire one of its electricians for allegedly drinking more than three liters of beer on the job because it couldn’t prove he was drunk.

Drinking alcohol during work hours is usually frowned upon and can constitute grounds for dismissal, but according to a high court in Murcia, Spain, that is only true when the employer can prove without a shadow of a doubt that the accused was inebriated to the point where he could no longer fulfill his duty safely. The court recently ordered an electrical company to either reinstate the sacked worker or pay them 47,000 euros ($52,000) for failing to show that their drinking on the job left them inebriated, intoxicated or drunk”, or unable to do their job. The controversial ruling also mentioned that the company failed to consider the hot Murcian summer, which apparently justified beer consumption.

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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 liter 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 liters 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.

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The above evidence seems more than enough to justify the company’s decision to dismiss the electrician, but the Murcian high court disagreed, ordering the electrical company to either compensate the man or hire him back.

“At no time did the private detective make mentions of signs of inebriation or clumsiness when it came to walking,” the court explained. “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.”

But the court didn’t stop there. Its ruling also mentioned that the company failed to take into consideration that the man indulged in alcoholic drinks with his colleagues, and because they were eating and “needed refreshments”. There was also no way to determine how much each person had drunk and if any of them had become inebriated.

“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,” the court ruling read.

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