The current summer days and the heat may indirectly encourage increased consumption of alcoholic beverages (not only in in the country of highest consumption of beer), while the consumption of alcoholic beverages during working hours is usually considered as one of the grounds for termination of employment across the EU without further ado. However, a recent decision of the Spanish Court of Murcia challenges this conclusion and provides interesting arguments in support of it, which we will discuss together below. Last but not least, we will also outline the recent case law of the Czech courts relating to the consumption of alcoholic beverages during working hours as a termination ground.
The Spanish court decision mentioned above concerned an electrician who drank up to three liters of beer a day during one shift. After the electrician was dismissed from his employment in 2021 for alcohol consumption during working hours, he reverted to the court, which found that the dismissal was invalid and that his employer was obliged to continue employing him or pay him compensation of 47,000 euros.
The court justified its decision in particular by the fact that the employee consumed alcoholic beverages only at the same time as eating, during work breaks, while it is generally known that consuming alcohol with food reduces its effects. The court also took into account the fact that the employee did not show any signs of drunkenness and that there was no damage causally linked to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Finally, the court emphasized, among other things, that the weather and the heat that was present in the city during the summer and the associated increased thirst must be taken into account.
In Czech law, the consumption of alcohol during working hours is, with a few exceptions, a violation of an employee's duties and can be subsumed under one of the grounds for termination. Exceptions apply to employees who work in unfavorable microclimatic conditions (glassmakers, for example) or if the consumption of alcoholic beverages is part of the performance of work tasks (brewers, for example). However, in the opinion of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, in the event of a breach of this obligation by an employee, it is not necessary to proceed from the principle of zero tolerance, but it is always necessary to take into account the specific circumstances of a given case. In other words, it is not the mere finding that the employee is under the influence of alcohol that is important, but it is necessary to determine whether it is such a level that would have an impact on the employee's mental functions and general alertness.
Apart from dismissal and termination of employment, alcohol consumption during working hours is also linked, for example, to a different amount of compensation for damages caused by the employee. In general, if an employee negligently causes damage to the employer, the employee is obliged to compensate the employer up to an amount not exceeding 4.5 times his average monthly earnings. However, this limitation does not apply if the employee caused the damage while under the influence (drunk or after misusing other addictive substances). If you are parched in the summer, please reconsider quenching it by beer.