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handling alcoholic employee??

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well I have a situation on my hands, one of the staff has been drinking on the job not so much that effects her performance or work but some of the staff have commented on the fact they smell alcohol on their breath and have caught her drinking some of the kitchen hooch on occasion. She does not ever come in late or hung over, never calls in sick or any of those issues but she is drinking while at work. I am in a quandry as I cannot prove it and the staff that saw her are unwilling to come forward to "testify".
Overall she does good work better than some of the other chuckleheads I have on staff and has been a solid employee for years. I think I am dealing with a functioning alcoholic here as she never seems drunk and unlike 1/2 of the kitchen staff has never had a DUI or talks about how much they were wasted the night before. I haven't caught her yet and am going on heresay at this point though I have smelled alcohol on her once or twice but that could have been cooking related or from her coming in after partying the night before.

I cannot fire her because of it because of the disabilities act but an unsure how to procede, any advice??
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post #2 of 18
While you obviously can't have people drinking on the job, I think you need to proceed very carefully. The fact the employee has been with you several years (rare in this business) and you are satisfied with her work justifies trying to "save" this employee. First determine whether the drinking is really going on. If so, then you need to talk to her and tell her in no uncertain terms that it cannot continue. It would be nice if you told her you appreciate her years of service and that you don't want to be forced to let her go. Letting her know you appreciate her could go a long way toward her stopping that behavior. Sometimes there's a work or home situation that causes people to drink heavier. Anyone who drinks at work obviously has a problem, but if the problem can be contained to off duty hours, it's not your problem. If there is an underlying home or work situation acting as a stressor, she may tell you. Just telling someone else might help her have less stress. Hopefully this will work out satisfactorily for everyone involved.
post #3 of 18
Either salt all the kitchen cooking wine or take it out of there Salting is better and tell the staff it is salted. Very hard to prove drinking on job.The mere fact that you smell it means nothing in court, its here say. This girl has problems elsewhere and is trying to drown them and it is unfortunate. Take her in office and say to her other staff has been complaiing, see what she says. You must ,and she must confront the issue before someone gets hurt and youre insurance goes up.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #4 of 18
I know in my Company I'm not going to let someone else screw up my lively hood. If I can't approach and deal with the problem without going to court or being sued, then I'll find another reason to get rid of the person. The law is taking the heart and soul out of being able to address the problem. Whats good for the business and whats right in your heart are two different things when it comes to firing an employee, or addressing their problem. I remember years ago we used to send shots and beers back to the cooks. ............Bill
post #5 of 18
I have to agree with Ed. even if dont want to. I dont like salting the alcohol for the same reason I dont use salted butter, even if you tell the staff its salted they may not be able to adjust the difference correctly. Another thing I would think is to lock it all away in an office, when someone needs some, measuring cup in hand you pour it for them. I think either approach would work, if not to solve the problem to at least prevent it by putting the word out there that you think something is going on and theres reasons for changes. People will be less likely to nip if they think theyre being watched. The other thing I can think is since you said shes worked there for years, how is her relationship with the other kitchen employees, and front of house? If she doesnt get a long well, its possible that the rumors are manifested by staff to explain her attitude.
post #6 of 18
I could understand the quandary if she was a problematic employee but the fact that no one has any evidence of her drinking OTJ might be a clue. If she's gone do others advance?
I'm not defending substance abuse in any way but you start out by saying she "Is drinking OTJ" as a matter of fact but later in your post you say it's nothing but here say and you have not caught her. If you haven't caught her and she is an other wise good employee then why would you be so anxious to get rid of her? This sounds like some one I would be trying to save not eliminate. Lets all hope we can't lose our jobs on here say.
Controlling the alcohol in the kitchen is always a prudent move. IMO you could do a lot worse than having some one who has been with you for years and performs better than your other staff that may have developed a problem.
Instead of talking about her with the other staff maybe you should consider setting her down and talking to her. I've never seen a problem get resolved by staff gossip.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #7 of 18
First (and crankily) it's not "hearsay" (one word, not two; two As, one E.) unless and until someone tries to bring the statement into a legal proceeding as evidence of the matter contained in the statement. At this stage, it's gossip, tattling, sucking up to the boss, backstabbing a co-worker, or some combination.

The information, which I gather you feel is not given with self-serving intentions and is fairly trustworthy, warrants further investigation on your part. But at this stage it doesn't deserve action, so relax a little. Breathe.

Grey was right, you should talk to her about your concerns. But don't make threats. without making any threats. If she tells you she has a problem (incredibly unlikely), recommend that she get involved with AA or a similar program. On a personal level, that's the most and best you can do. Be forewarned -- people who do have a problem won't acknowledge it until they're near "bottom," and won't seek help until after they've hit it -- and hard.

Make a WRITTEN note about your conversation, including how it was motivated by reports from other employees, and file it somewhere you can find it later in case the matter ends up in some sort of hearing and you need to document the time period of your concerns. DO NOT tell her you made a note, DO NOT give her a copy. If the situation progresses to the point where you seriously consider getting rid of her, time enough to start swapping paperwork.

It's doubtful the "disabilities act" protects an alcoholic restaurant employee who will not seek rehab. The federal Act (ADA) requires "reasonable accomodation" and no more. Pennsylvania undoubtedly has rules going beyond the ADA, and I'm not competent to comment on them.

However, it being the restaurant business, she's probably an "at will" employee who can be fired for incompetence, insubordination, etc. If she's an alcoholic, the problems will manifest themselves all too soon.

If and when you have legal/employment questions consult with an attorney. Not just before doing anything; but also before you decide not to do something because you think there's a legal barrier. You wouldn't ask a lawyer to do 80 covers. What makes you think you know the law?

I don't recommend changing the way you handle alcohol in the kitchen -- unless it's an inventory problem. It won't discourage drinking on the job at all. Drinkers have no problems finding a source. The idea of measuring out alcohol as needed, knocked me for a loop when I first read it. While it might work in some kitchens, we went through at least two bottles of wine and a bottle of cognac per dinner service at each saute station.

Unless your kitchen has a strictly and consistently enforced "no drinking" policy, she hasn't done anything wrong -- even if she does take a "nip" now and then. Many kitchen staffs have a "cold one" at shut off. If it's appropriate for yours, you might want to give it a try as a bonding ritual -- and to keep an eye on how your possible problem handles the situation. That's a "might" partner, not a "should." You know your kitchen and employees best.

In the meantime, don't let your relationship with your employee be spoiled by what is no more than gossip concerning something which doesn't effect her work. Just keep a weather eye out. For now, it's more a possible safety/health than anything else. Treat it that way.

BDL

PS. Not excusing anything, but back in the day alcoholism was so common in professonal kitchens, it was darn near presumed.
____________________
Ex owner operator Predmonantly French catering; ex cook at a couple of good joints
post #8 of 18
You walk in one morning, this person is drunk and hit their head on the counter. Blood all over the place........OSHA calls because 2 of you other employees called them because they told you for weeks this person was drinking at work and you didn't do anything about it..........Try telling OSHA and your workmen's Comp insurance, it was here say.................Bill
post #9 of 18
BDL, you have some very good advice.

Any yet....Yet, I find each and every State/(or Province as the case may be) has very different views on alcohol/substance consumption in the work place.

Here the Unions are fighting tooth and nail to stop a piece of legislation that would allow an Employer to have an employee tested for drug/booze consumption should he find good reason to do, or in the event of an incident having already happened.

O.T.O.H, the current "Worksafe" (Worker's Comp. board) will ding (fine) the employer if an employee injures him/herself and alcohol/drugs were a factor.

Booze in the kitchen is one thing, but drugs on the construction site (Crystal meth, Coke, crack) are very common here. The Employer always take it on the chin with fines and accidents, and Unions and whiney-scumbag opportunists never want to address the problem, but fight anything that even attempts to address the problem.

Don't care if booze is common in the kitchen or not. Once you get dinged a few grand for "allowing" someone drunk/stoned to operate equipment, you change your mind pretty quickly.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 18
If they are so far gone to the point of drinking kitchen wine then get rid of that person. Who knows what else they are doing to themselves and your biz. You are just asking for a court hearing.

Kitchen Hooch, eeewyuck, 86 that person with the quickness.

Hope you keep inventory of your bar wines. We had a drunk once, after he drank up all the myers rum for fosters he discovered teh wine roomwhich was located right behind dry storage. I always wondered why he would dump his trash can so much, turns out he was filling it with Opus 1 lol. And teh funniest thing I ever seen by a different work drunk... Guy takes a slim jim trash can to clean up the dry storage, but instead of trash it is filled with a hoegaarden keg lol.
post #11 of 18
In a slim jim?? omg, Id love to see that!
post #12 of 18
Just to remind everybody, Rat doesn't know for sure that this person actually is drinking on the job. Until he can prove different, he has to assume he/she is not, and as earlier stated, keep a weather eye out. If the person is indeed drinking, it may not even be the kitchen booze. They could have their own stash they bring in. I remember I place where I once worked where they moved the beer walk-in to another location in the basement. When they went to move it, about 200 empty brandy bottles rained down on the workmen. They were from a cook that had worked there for years and had retired. He was the only one who ever drank that kind of brandy, and the place didn't even stock it. No one had ever known, and we all had to laugh about it. He didn't want to throw the bottles in the trash where someone might question where they came from, so he'd throw the empties on top of the beer cooler. Later we found bottles stashed all over the basement. He either forgot where he'd stashed them, or I figure he kept them all over so he could grab a handy nip no matter where his basement errand might take him. :lol:
post #13 of 18
True, that.

HOWEVER.....

Look, in the U.S. and Canada you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and in Mexico you are guilty until YOU prove your innocence (at your own cost).

So what?

Don't want to get religious here, but the Catholics believe in the concept of original sin.

Again, So what?

With every Gov't agency and every court, the EMPLOYER is presumed guilty of any complaint or action taken against him. Or, as the various Gov't agenices so succinctly put it: "The onus is on the employer".


Am I starting to make sense here?

If the employer suspects an employee of drinking or substance abuse while on the job, and an incident takes place, the employer is guilty.

Guilty of what?

Guilty of not providing a safe working enviroment.

I've seen a sloshed line cook reach over a bucket of water containg grill tools and knock it into the fryer. Lots of excitment, the fire suppression goes off, the sloshed cook recieves 2nd degree burns to his face and arms. Emergency room staff smell alcohol on the cook's breath, two hours after the incident it reads .06%.

Booze had to come from somewhere, so the owner had to be aware, right? Not only does the owner have to compensate for all ruined meals when the fires suppression went off, pay for the labour to clean up, pay for the tank to be re-charged and the system re-set, but he has to pay a fine as well for "failing to provide a safe working enviroment". And his W.C.B insurance premiums go up too.

Sloshed pasty cooks spilling hot carmel, 1st degree burns. The only silver lining in this cloud was that the caramel was so **** hot it cauterized the burn, and no infection could take place.

Sloshed d/w putting tad too much soap in the mop bucket, and not really mopping, but just sloshing the water around. Both B.O.H. and FOH staff slipping and sliding before the mess could be dealt with.

Sloshed male staff ogling and groping the females. Who's to blame? 9 times out of ten the staff will go to the labour board and lodge a complaint. The employer takes it on the chin.

So big deal if the Catholics believe in original sin, but everyone knows the employer is a easy mark and is the first one to blame if anything goes wrong.

The employer's "original sin", for merely existing

Doesn't matter if the employee brings booze from home, or shows up already sloshed to work. If anything goes wrong, some one is to blame and someone has to pay, and it sure won't be the sloshed employee.

Rat, deal with it discretely, but deal with it.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #14 of 18
The advice given by BDL & Grayeagle are sound and the way I would handle this situation. I would have a conversation in private about the good job she does for you and then I would bring up the comments I heard (of course no names) and ask if there is a problem I should be aware of. A conversation like this can get very interesting so be prepared for many twists and turns. I would end the conversation on a positive note and thank her for the good work, document this conversation informally and get back to cooking.
Being the boss is just sooooooooo much fun:roll:
Oh and for safety I would probably worry more about the ones who come in hung over as they are probably still legally intoxicated and more apt to be the cause of any slip ups. Cant wait to see what happens:thumb:
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #15 of 18
Exactly. There is a world of difference between staff gossip or suspicion and having some one "sloshed". If she was sloshed I don't think there would be a whole lot to talk about. Then again there are some companies with policies that dictate the minute an employee admits they have a problem with substance abuse they are very hard to terminate.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Again I cannot prove it nor has anyone caught the person red handed, they may or may not be drunk and may or may not be bringing in their own stash.
Is it possible to smell of alcohol and not be drunk? Maybe from the night before?
Our HR policy does make it hard ot terminate someone with a drug / alcohol problem- especially if they do admit to it, unless they get into a fight because they are drinking- then they can be terminated.

There has been missing boose or booze that is unaccounted for but I think I am dealing with more that one drunk and one person is being used to cover the other drinking. I will wait and see and keep my eyes open. Also some of the other cooks have come in drunk on occasion and it not uncommon for 4-5 of them to kill a case and a half of beer while closing up shop. This is related to cooks that are not in my department-so I am keeping out of that situation as i am not in charge of that particular dept.

I will wait and see.
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post #17 of 18

Good luck

I would be relieved if this were my problem. I have a co- manager who will sometimes shows up staggering, slurring words, ect. I suspect its alot more than alchol. I work for a large corporation, my G.M. has just been fired, and I just relayed this info. to my D.M. . He dropped it back in my lap, saying " keep me informed of this and stay on top of it".
If you think your haveing a tough time in a single restruant situation .....try it from a corperate level. I truely do wish you the best of luck. mabe we could get together and write a good movie script......lol.
post #18 of 18
Not knowing whether your employee participates in a health plan or not, I can only tell you what we had and what we did for our employees with problems. Many larger health insurance companies provide addiction treatment and services as part of their plans. If your employee participates, the first thing you or your HR person want to do is to contact the insurance company and find out if these are provided, and whether the employee will need a physician referral to use these benefits.

Then have the private talk with the employee.

You have certain rights as an employer, based on the safety factor for the other employees in your kitchen. Find out what your rights are in your state.

Theresa;)
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