Thirsty work | Firm hired private detective to catch employee drinking on the job

Firm hired private detective to catch employee drinking on the job

A company hired a private eye to tail a worker who was enjoying several alcoholic drinks a day while on the job.

The man, an electrician working for a company in Spain, was followed on several occasions by the detective, and was spotted buying and drinking alcohol multiple times a day. On one occasion he was even seen walking into a bar before 9am.

But a court has now ruled that the firm was wrong to dismiss the man because it couldn’t be proven that his drinking impaired his job performance. The court even said the soaring summer temperatures could also have been a valid reason for him to cool off with a refreshing beer (or several) during the work day.

Bosses must now give him his job back or pay him more than €47,000 (£42k) in compensation.

A high court in the Murcia region heard that the electrician had worked for the company for 27 years when bosses hired the private detective to follow him in July 2021.

On one occasion, the man and a colleague were observed stopping off at a bar before 8.30am. Later that day he was seen buying four cans and a one-litre bottle of beer at lunchtime, and in the early evening he was spotted drinking yet another can of beer before driving his company van back to the firm’s HQ.

Two weeks later, the covert surveillance captured the worker and two colleagues downing a combined seven litres of beer before the clock had even struck noon. He was later seen drinking three more cans of beer throughout the day.

Days later he was seen drinking yet more beer and several glasses of wine with lunch, chased down with a shot of brandy.

Presented with a trove of evidence against the man, employers sacked him for “repeated and excessive alcohol consumption during the working day, which endangered his physical wellbeing and that of his workmates”.

But in a surprising twist, a court found the company’s decision was unjustified because the private eye’s surveillance report made no mention of “signs of inebriation or clumsiness when it came to walking.”

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“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 court ruling said.

“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.”

The ruling went on: “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.”

It was also noted that most of the worker’s drinking had taken place during breaks. And despite the detective claiming the man had consumed an estimated three litres of beer on one day alone, the court deemed it impossible to determine the total amount of alcohol he had consumed on any given day – therefore it couldn’t be proven the man had drunk enough booze to impair his job or his driving.

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