I need advice on policy and legal responsibilities for drinking beer "with the guys" on Friday afternoons. I will be managing a sister shop to a large shop where the employees currently practice this. It seems it would open up huge legal problems if an employee gets a DUI or worse on way home from work. Please advise.
You've answered your own question, and it seems to me there's no better time to change old habits than when new management takes over. They're gonna be suspicious of you anyway, so you might as well let them know that business is business, bars are bars -- and never, for a variety of good legal, ethical, and societal reasons -- the twain shall meet; at least not on your watch.
You can do this a couple of ways: as a hard-ass, or with plenty of documentation to back you up. I'd advise talking to the company's lawyer(s) and asking them to draw up a policy and its rationale. But whichever route you take, don't be apologetic about it when laying down the law with the employees. Let them know that this shop is now being managed professionally (it apparently wasn't before, if this holdover behavior from 20 years ago has persisted).
Expect an uproar. But ultimately, this rule will separate the wheat from the chaff. And you'll be better off without the chaff.
Anthony Noel, forum technical advisor
If someone is injured or killed on the property after having a beer or more on site, this opens the company, and you the supervisor, up to high liability.
While I enjoy a good beer after work as much as anybody, at the shop is not the place. Anthony is dead on the mark on this one.
"The use of alcohol or controlled substances on company property or time is strictly prohibited. Failure to adhere to these policies will result in disciplinary actions and/or termination of employment."
This phrase should be in every employee hand book. (Make sure your company, or at least this shop, has one.)
Now, to help diffuse a possible blowup, how about knocking off 30 minutes early, and meeting at the local pub for a capper if the employees really want to continue the tradition.
The conversation may go something like this "We are going to do away with the tradition of Friday afternoon drinks here at the shop. This is a liability issue that our attorney tells us can't continue. If anyone is upset with this, then meet me at O'Mally's Pub at 3:30 Friday afternoon (assuming you clock out at 4:00pm), and we will discuss if further."
You didn't mention who pays. This way you still have the opportunity to keep some continuity in the shop, while breaking up a particularly dangerous situation for you and your company. They are probably already taking the time off anyhow waiting for the beer bell, so go ahead and give it to them. If your religous views do not agree with the behavior, so be it, but keep it out of the mix. That will also be grounds for a hugh blowup as far as personnel are concerned on a personal level.
In doing it this way you are not supporting the behavior directly, but building some support from the employees that you are someone who will find a way to make things work.
John's idea of meeting in a pub after work is good, although I think (and as I've so often said, I'm no lawyer) that knocking off early to do it, if it becomes a regular practice, COULD (could) establish a pattern that a judge or jury MAY (may) decide implicates the shop as having consistently encouraged its workers to cap off the week. This is one reason that company Christmas parties and summer picnics, even those off-site, are now often alcohol-free.
I wish we could lighten up on this issue. But the fact is that 99 percent of lawyers, seeing a circumstance involving potential company involvement in aiding or abetting the intoxication of an employee who is then hurt or killed, is going to sue that company for every penny it's got. And I don't know about the rest of you, but I've worked too hard to open myself up to that. So my advice remains: "steer clear."
One idea I've seen work is a weekly or monthly pizza/hoagie party AT LUNCHTIME on Friday, with the company picking up the tab and opening the soda machine (or buying soda, chips, etc.) (By the way, for the uninitiated, "hoagie" is Philly-speak for the sandwich elsewhere known as a sub, zep, grinder, po' boy, etc.) This is also a good place for a regular company meeting, open-forum style.
But alcohol is a hot-button issue. There are always people in various stages of thought about it, or opposed to it for religious reasons -- or worse, in recovery from abusing it. And society has (and continues to) increase the penalties for anyone even remotely considered culpable for alcohol-related death or injury.
I'd say focus on the task at hand, reward employees with money, commendations, alcohol-free events, etc. -- but don't mix work and booze.
Anthony Noel, forum technical advisor
We all have our own level of comfort or discomfort in this case. And if you can stand having an employee drink in or around the shop, then why not smoke? Or worse? It's up to you. But expect a lot of "I told you so's". And don't expect a lot of sympathy.
However, IF something does happen, a good lawyer will name everyone in the suit including the company, the person who bought the beer and probably the manufacturer. It just takes one incident, even something very petty, to open yourself to serious litigation.
I personally have all my employees meet at a diner on Friday prior to work. Whomever shows up gets a free breakfast. It is a motivational issue, and I can convey to the employees that they are valuable. Also, I get the opportunity to have a small company meeting to let them know what projects will be coming up in the next few weeks.
However, most companies and managers have to work really hard to find a way to get employees to bond together and act as a team. You already have that in these Friday get togethers.
It may not be easy but you should look for a substitute for the alchohol but let the meetings continue. Perhaps a card game or something. I would even put it before the group and solicit ideas from them.
Unless they've been living in a cave they will understand the liability and safety issues. The important thing, in my opinion, is to keep the close knit group you already have.
As for your roll in all of this, blame it on your insurance man! No need for you to take the heat unless you want to flex your muscles with your new found position. Instead I would show my strength by enforcing the new law and being creative in finding a way to still make it enjoyable for the crew.
You want to drink? Go home, get away from the work place, plan a meeting somewhere else and discuss whatever it is you are using as the excuse to justify this stupid behaviour.
I had a guy working for me several years ago that stopped on his way home, bought a six pack, had too many and wrecked into a light pole. Guess what? He was in one of our company trucks and tried to claim workers comp. I fired the guy on the spot and fought against his claim and he ended up losing that to!
It is not worth it, don't try it, don't continue it and if the guys don't like it--TOUGH! They are not worth keeping.
I like to have an open forum where everyone can get the little things off their chest and pose the questions, comments or suggestions for the business. I find that it brings the work force closer together and can sometimes stop problems before they start. I also like to end the week on a friendly note and have all the guys feeling good about their jobs and ready to come back to work on Monday morning. I find it's good to talk about the mistakes made during the week and share with the group. I've had people so worked up about making a big mistake that they think they should just quit and talking about it gets it out in the open and over with.
Beer seems to help. I have no idea about the legalities involved, but I'm sure it's probably not politically correct. But sitting here in Fairbanks, Alaska on a Friday night...drinking with my guys after a hard, long, productive week, I really don't give a shit. There are pro's and con's either way, but my shop is a family, and the Friday night beer is going to stay a part of the family. Here's to ya...
You want to take your guys out for a drink? Send them home after work and arrange a meeting somewhere other than your place of business, but do not allow drinking in the work place. It surely will reflect on your ability to run a safe work place and lessen the respect of not only your empoyees but also your customer base.
This old way of attempting to justify your actions undermines what life is really about, responsibility and accountability. You're the man, not the party animal. Why not get with your insurance agent and seek guidance.
Comment from contributor A:
Alcohol use or possesion on company property can not be tolerated at all, for obvious reasons.
Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with allowing your guys and gals to clock out 1/2 an hour early on Friday. If you all happen to coincientally happen to meet up at the local pub at say 3:35... let the beer and BS flow! Everyone is officially off the company clock. Of course, you can't penalize employees who choose not to meet at the bar.
My point is: protect your interest first, then go out and have a good time second.