alcoholism in the workplace

Piet van Niekerk* was employed as a bus driver at a reputable bus company, Speedy Bus Services*, for a period of 6 years. The company has a zero tolerance policy towards it’s bus drivers who are found guilty of “arriving for duty under the influence of an intoxicating substance or drinking on duty”. The employees are aware of the company’s written policy and know what sanction will be imposed on them should they breach the rule. Piet’s duties were to drive school children to their school in the mornings and to return them home safely in the afternoon. One of the clauses in Piet’s contract of employment which he signed, reflected that he agreed to undergo a breathalyzer test, if and when required.

On Sunday evening 30 March 2014, Piet consumed an excessive amount of alcohol at a friend’s braai. On Monday 31 March 2014, Piet reported for duty as per usual, at the bus depot. His manager Koos van der Merwe* suspected that Piet was under the influence of alcohol. He was asked to undergo a breathalyzer test but declined to do, in the presence of a designated employee who carries out such a test. A witness was also present in the office at the time Piet declined to undergo the test. Koos and his colleagues noticed that Piet had bloodshot eyes, was smelling of alcohol, was slurring and was unsteady on his feet.

Koos immediately suspended Piet from work and notified him to attend a hearing on Friday 04 April 2014 at 10h00. The hearing was convened and Piet pleaded guilty to the charge. The chairperson found him guilty of the charge and dismissed him summarily. There was no doubt that Piet had breached a serious company rule arriving for duty under the influence of alcohol. The chairperson made out a compelling argument to dismiss Piet by stating that he posed a serious risk both to himself and others.

*Not their real names

For further information on any labour related matters, you can contact
Bernard Reisner:

W.Tel no.: 021 423 3959
Fax: 021 423 2105
Cell: 082 433 8714