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  1. #1
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    Default Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: Minnesota
    Hello. I don't know if this is the correct Forum to post my concern, but I will try.

    I work for a major retailer. One of my co-workers frequently drinks alcohol while on the job, while on the clock. He takes frequent unauthorized breaks and goes to his car to drink. Verbally, this has been reported many times to the General Manager and the Assistants. This has been going on for over 2 years. It is common knowledge of most employees that he is drinking on the job. One can smell it on his breath and his behavior becomes increasingly more aggressive as his visits to the bottle increase throughout the day. As well, he becomes verbally aggressive with various female workers as he sexually hasasses them.

    The best one assistant manager could say to us is, if he is drinking on the job, it takes 2 salaried managers to address the issue with him. I am under the impression this means if 2 of them bust him, they can either terminate his employment or taker other action. There have been occasions where there are indeed 2 salaried managers on duty, it gets reported to them, and they take absolutely no action.

    My question is, if, while on the clock, he gets drunk, punches out for the day, and drives off the property while drunk, and gets into an accident, and harms someone, is the company responsible or in any way complicit in this matter?
    Since management knows he is drinking on the job, and they take no steps to stop this, are they or the company culpable?

    Also, if an employee is using illegal drugs while on duty, is the company responsible for any damage or accidents they may cause while high and on the clock?

    Many thanks in advance for any and all serious and sensible responses devoid of sarcasm or attempts to establish superiority over poster or respondents.

  2. #2
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    Jun 2006
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    Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    I am asking you this in all seriousness, with no sarcasm intended.

    With the obvious exception of firing him, which I acknowledge they could (and possibly should) do, what do you think they are able to do to control his behavior? What do you think they should be doing that they're not?

    Why do you think the company is responsible for his actions?

  3. #3
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
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    My question is, if, while on the clock, he gets drunk, punches out for the day, and drives off the property while drunk, and gets into an accident, and harms someone, is the company responsible or in any way complicit in this matter?

    Since management knows he is drinking on the job, and they take no steps to stop this, are they or the company culpable?

    Also, if an employee is using illegal drugs while on duty, is the company responsible for any damage or accidents they may cause while high and on the clock?
    Yes, there are times, under a variety of circumstances where an employer might be liable for the acts of an employee. It's called vicarious liability but has other names as well. You can get a good idea of how it works by reading the following article:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicarious_liability

    Yeah, I know, Wikipedia. But note the footnotes at the bottom of the article that cite primary sources that you can obtain for further information.

    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
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    Many thanks in advance for any and all serious and sensible responses devoid of sarcasm or attempts to establish superiority over poster or respondents.
    What on earth brought that on? smh.

  4. #4
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    Nov 2013
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
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    My question is, if, while on the clock, he gets drunk, punches out for the day, and drives off the property while drunk, and gets into an accident, and harms someone, is the company responsible or in any way complicit in this matter?
    Since management knows he is drinking on the job, and they take no steps to stop this, are they or the company culpable?

    Also, if an employee is using illegal drugs while on duty, is the company responsible for any damage or accidents they may cause while high and on the clock?

    Under the common law theory of “vicarious liability” or “respondeat superior,” Minnesota employers may be liable to third parties for physical injury or death caused by the negligence of their employees, including injuries arising from auto accidents caused by their employees. Because the employer’s liability arises from the employment relationship, the employer is only liable for conduct that occurs within the “scope of employment.” See, e.g., Nelson v. Nelson, 166 N.W.2d 70, 73 (Minn. 1969); Boland v. Morrill, 132 N.W.2d 711 (Minn. 1965).
    The answer to your second question is yes.

    Whether or not a court could determine that driving to and from work constitutes part of employment is a question. However, knowing that the employee is intoxicated when leaving and during work a court may find that the employer is negligent.

  5. #5
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    Jul 2018
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
    View Post
    My question is, if, while on the clock, he gets drunk, punches out for the day, and drives off the property while drunk, and gets into an accident, and harms someone, is the company responsible or in any way complicit in this matter?
    Since management knows he is drinking on the job, and they take no steps to stop this, are they or the company culpable?
    Not under the circumstances you've described.


    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
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    Also, if an employee is using illegal drugs while on duty, is the company responsible for any damage or accidents they may cause while high and on the clock?
    Depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the incident.

  6. #6
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    Aug 2019
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    Minnesota
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Thanks adjusterjack, for your response. When time permits, I will study your reference in depth and present copies of pertinent matter to my employer.

    As to my concluding comment, my theory is, I believe there are people on these forums who have nothing better to do than show off their perceived superiority or intelligence. Probably everyone in their lives hates them and they have little to no social intercourse. Participating in these forums helps them sustain an air of supremacy over others. They believe their mega intelligence and superiority are why people hate them! Makes them feel better about themselves to act out on these forums. Perhaps they can't connect to the real reason(s) people do not like them. Just a theory.

    Thanks budwad for your response.
    By virtue of the fact the company has rules and policies governing employee conduct while on the clock, I should think management would be somewhat liable. They know he is drinking alcohol on their property. He is drunk while on their clock. He clocks out, leaves property in vehicle and kills or injures someone with his vehicle, why didn't they stop him? At the minimum, call the police and at least report a drunk driver leaving their property.

  7. #7
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    Feb 2020
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Quote Quoting mrtenebrae
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    As to my concluding comment, my theory is, I believe there are people on these forums who have nothing better to do than show off their perceived superiority or intelligence. Probably everyone in their lives hates them and they have little to no social intercourse. Participating in these forums helps them sustain an air of supremacy over others. They believe their mega intelligence and superiority are why people hate them! Makes them feel better about themselves to act out on these forums. Perhaps they can't connect to the real reason(s) people do not like them. Just a theory.
    This is an astute and common observation of some here.

    Thanks budwad for your response.
    By virtue of the fact the company has rules and policies governing employee conduct while on the clock, I should think management would be somewhat liable. They know he is drinking alcohol on their property. He is drunk while on their clock. He clocks out, leaves property in vehicle and kills or injures someone with his vehicle, why didn't they stop him? At the minimum, call the police and at least report a drunk driver leaving their property.
    You are correct. When an employer is made aware of a potentially harmful activity that is occurring under their control, they can become liable if they take no action to prevent it. IMO, that is why so many venues are closing down due to the coronavirus. They have been publicly and professionally warned that group gatherings can spread it...so they cannot play dumb to the increased risks they created by gathering people.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    Whether or not a court could determine that driving to and from work constitutes part of employment is a question.
    That part is easily answered: the employee's commute to and from work is not within the scope of employment and thus an employer would generally not have any liability for accidents the employee causes while commuting. Even the most liberal (and plaintiff friendly) state of California holds that view: "The going and coming rule is a rule of nonliability of an employer for the negligent acts of its employees while going and coming to work under the rationale that, absent certain exceptions, an employee is not deemed to be acting within the scope of employment while traveling to and from the workplace." Purton v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 218 Cal. App. 4th 499, 510, 159 Cal. Rptr. 3d 912, 920 (2013).

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    However, knowing that the employee is intoxicated when leaving and during work a court may find that the employer is negligent.
    On this states vary. In the Purton case I cited above, the California court held that the employer might be found liable because while the accident itself occurred off the premises of the employer and not while the employee was acting within the scope of employment, the employee nevertheless got intoxicated at an event hosted by the employer and the employer may be liable for the injuries caused in the accident. Specifically, the court stated:

    As we explained above, a trier of fact could conclude that the proximate cause of the accident, Landri's intoxication, occurred within the scope of Landri's employment. Because a jury could find the proximate cause of the accident occurred at the party, before Landri even attempted to drive, the going and coming rule is not implicated and amounts to an “analytical distraction.” (Bussard, supra, 105 Cal.App.4th at p. 806, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 675.) Stated differently, we focus on the act on which vicarious liability is based and not on when the act results in injury.

    Purton v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 218 Cal. App. 4th 499, 510, 159 Cal. Rptr. 3d 912, 920 (2013).

    However, a number of other states, including the OP's state of Minnesota, take a contrary view. On facts very similar to the California Purton case — both cases involved an employee who was served alcohol at an employer sponsored Christmas party and then afterwards caused an accident while driving after the party — the Minnesota Supreme Court held the employer is not liable:

    In the clear majority of cases raising the office party issue, the courts have refused to hold the employer responsible. E.g., Nichols v. McGraw, 152 So.2d 486 (Fla.App.1963); Brehm v. Dobson, 15 Ill.App.3d 285, 304 N.E.2d 149 (App.Ct.1973). Historically, courts have not allowed such a common-law action. See Employer Liability, supra. For example, in Halvorson v. Birchfield Boiler, Inc., the court refused to find a common-law action for civil damages against an employer who served alcohol at a Christmas party to an alcoholic employee who became intoxicated and injured a third party. 76 Wash.2d 759, 458 P.2d 897 (1969). See Edgar v. Kajet, 84 Misc.2d 100, 375 N.Y.S.2d 548 (N.Y.App.Term 1975). Section 317 has typically been used when the employee is acting negligently on the work premises, albeit during off-duty hours, such that the employer could control the employee's action. The difficulty in discerning when the employer's duty to control ends, leads us to reject extending that duty to off-premises actions. Since Cortright was neither on the premises nor using the employer's chattels, we reject the applicability of the Restatement to this case....

    Therefore, we reverse the court of appeals' holding that an employer as a social host is liable for negligently serving alcohol to its employee when the employee injures a third party off the premises of the workplace.

    Meany v. Newell, 367 N.W.2d 472, 475–76 (Minn. 1985).

    So we have two cases with very similar facts but two distinctly different outcomes. This is one of those situations in which state law really does matter. Unfortunately in Minnesota the case law does not support holding the employee liable for an intoxicated employee's accident on the drive home even when the employer itself served the booze to the employee. Given that, an employer isn't going to be liable for that accident when the employee is drinking his own booze during work, either. The result in other states, like California, may be different.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Very good analysis.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Intoxication While at Work and Illegal Drug Usage at Work

    Have either you or the affected women reported the sexual harassment to management?

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