MURCIA’S Supreme Court has ruled that drinking three litres of beer in a day is not sufficient grounds on its own for dismissing an employee.
The electrician was sacked in September 2021 after a private detective hired by the company followed him for a few days in July that year and noted him drinking alcohol during his workshift.
The employee had been with the firm for 27 years.
The Supreme Court ruled that ‘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.’
The unnamed employer will either have to reinstate him with full back pay or give him a lump sum of €47,000.
The Murcia bench commented that besides providing insufficient grounds for dismissal, it failed to take the hot weather conditions into account and the impact of the drinking habits of the employee.
The private detective provided detailed logs of the man’s drinking during July 2021 including the consumption of three litres of beer throughout the day.
On another occasion he was seen gulping a 330ml bottle of beer before his lunch break, followed by three glasses of red wine with his meal and a shot of brandy to finish off the session.
The detective did not mention whether all of the drinks were alcoholic or whether the man was in an intoxicated state after consuming alcohol.
The employee was suspended by the company for 20 days without pay and they described the issue as ‘very serious’ due to the nature of his job as an electrician which put himself and his co-workers at risk, in addition to driving the firm’s vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Lawyers acting for the employee went to a Murcia court that sided with the company due to ‘the consumption of alcohol when working’.
The Superior Court took a different view during the appeal, with the lawyers successfully arguing that a lunch break does not count as part of a working day and there was no evidence from the private detective that their client ‘presented signs of clumsiness or drunkenness when walking’.
If of course he had been caught over the alcohol limit when driving, then that would have been a different story.