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Hi can an employee be written up for drinking outside of the workplace after hours, but with some colleagues?

In this scenario, the employee was out of town visiting the home office. He was invited out for drinks with coworkers (by his boss), but it was after work, and no clients present.

Employer is trying to give a written warning that needs to be signed, for "excessive drinking". No out of line conduct was displayed, the employee was not late for work and this did not prevent him from performing his work duties.

State is Louisana if that helps. Thank you!

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    What's your actual goal here? Unless you have a CBA covering your employment, your employer can just fire you anyway, in which it really doesn't matter if they wrote you up or not. Jul 24, 2022 at 16:05
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    Two question: (1) If this was not in an official event, how did they know about it? Who reported it, and on what ground? (unless of course, you work for the law enforcement department itself) (2) As you say, no objectionable behaviour was spotted, so what is the objection here? Jul 24, 2022 at 19:00
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    Wait... boss invites employee out for drinking, employee drinks, and boss then wants to get them in trouble for drinking?
    – Heinzi
    Jul 25, 2022 at 7:43
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    Did the boss pay for the drinks? Could 'excessive' refer to the price instead of the amount of alcohol?
    – Orbit
    Jul 25, 2022 at 9:43
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    "No out of line conduct was displayed" -- I think this is where the employer will disagree. Excessive use of alcohol is definitely a violation of decorum, regardless of how well the employee "cleaned-up" the next day. In a business that values appearances and customer interaction, that could easily end with a "write-up". It's easy for people's faces/behaviors to end up on social media and create reputation problems. It also makes one wonder about the judgement of the person involved.
    – teego1967
    Jul 25, 2022 at 11:41

2 Answers 2

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Lousiana is an "at-will" state. This means said worker can be fired for "any reason, or no reason at all".

Drinking alcohol falls under none of the exceptions, where "any" reason cannot be protected by federal laws. Examples for exceptions would be anti-discrimination laws, whistleblower laws etc.

So in a state where said worker can be fired anyway, whether they write him up, whether the worker accepts the writeup or not, this question does not really make sense. Because neither one nor the other is meaningful in Lousiana, given that they can be fired anyway, no matter what they do.

Is this maybe a unionized shop? Do write-ups do something specific, listed in the contract? If so, you should check that, we don't know what the contract or union agreements say. If it is unionized, talk to your union representative as soon as possible, they will know what you can do inside their guidelines and regulations.

Because if not... the answer is: yes, the company can do it. Assuming the worker does not want to get fired. They can do almost anything. Because they can fire them for almost anything (or nothing).

The lesson to learn here? You are not protected by any employment laws with teeth in Lousiana. So act accordingly. Never do any after work activity with those people again. At least one of them is a snitch and HR is about as unfriendly as it gets. You can be fired for any reason, so save some money and always know where your next job could be.

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    'Lousiana is an "at-will" state. This means said worker can be fired for "any reason, or no reason at all".' That's broadly true, however it's a misconception (and a common one) that being in an at-will state means you cannot sign an employment contract giving you extra rights, or be covered by some broader agreement that affords some protections. An employer giving a written warning could hint that the OP is under such conditions. Jul 25, 2022 at 12:12
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    That's why I wrote "Do write-ups do something specific, listed in the contract?"
    – nvoigt
    Jul 25, 2022 at 12:32
  • Yes, that sentence is inconsistent with the bulk of your answer. Jul 25, 2022 at 12:35
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The title and framing of this question seem to question whether this event was any of the employer's business, given that the event was after hours and outside work premises.

nvoigt has already given an answer explaining that in Louisiana and other "at-will" jurisdictions, the employer can make almost anything their business.

It might be worth supplementing that answer by noting that even without that at-will context, it is generally not safe to assume that an event of this kind would be outside the employer's remit.

Even when not organised by the employer, events like this still have a significant connection to the workplace and what happens at such events can impair co-worker relations. In light of this, workplace law in non-at-will regions will sometimes recognise such events as an extension of the workplace and subject to employer disciplinary processes.

For instance, take the Australian case Drake & Bird v BHP Coal Pty Ltd [2019] FWC 7444. Drake was fired by BHP for egregious behaviour while drunk at a work party, which BHP considered a breach of its employee code of conduct.

As with most workers in Australia, Drake was covered by legal protection against "unfair dismissal". Although he didn't contest these allegations, he argued that his dismissal was unfair because the event wasn't an official BHP party, or that he hadn't known that it was. (He claimed to have thought it was just an unofficial gathering of employees.)

The commissioner hearing the case found that Drake probably did know BHP had sponsored the event, but then went on to state that even if it had just been an unofficial gathering of employees, it might be considered "related to work" and subject to BHP's disciplinary process. (Paragraph 115 at the above link.)

In your case, the event was organised by the employee's boss. That kind of thing increases the chance that it would be considered a work-related event where the employer had a say in employee conduct.

"Excessive drinking" on its own, without any accompanying bad behaviour, is much less likely to be considered justifiable grounds for disciplinary action. But one shouldn't rely solely on the unofficial/off-the-clock nature of the event as cover against disciplinary action here.

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  • I'm not sure the OP presented enough information to compare what happened to a case involving employee violence or sexual misconduct. Not to say your answer was wrong, but this seems like something which should have been added to the question as a request for more information. Jul 28, 2022 at 20:36
  • @JulieinAustin My answer was intended to be less about the specifics (which I agree are different, and not entirely clear in the OP's case) and more about the apparent assumption that "after hours" + "outside workplace" = "none of the employer's business". I've reworked it in the hope of making that clearer.
    – G_B
    Jul 29, 2022 at 1:46

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