Company Must Reinstate Driver Who Drank 9 Beers, Crashed

Canadian woman's alcoholism is a disability, labor arbitrator says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
Arbitrator: Trucker Fired for DUI Should Get Her Job Back
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/who10)

A Canadian truck driver who admitted drinking at least nine beers before she crashed on a Pennsylvania highway was, unsurprisingly, fired by her employer. But in an unusual twist, a labor arbitrator has ordered trucking company Groupe Robert to reinstate her, saying that her alcoholism is a disability and the Quebec company should have made a "reasonable accommodation" for her, the CBC reports. Nobody was injured in the June 30, 2022, crash, but the truck was damaged. The driver admitted stopping twice to buy six-packs of beer as she drove from the Montreal area to Pennsylvania. She said she drank nine of them and can't remember whether she finished the other three before losing control of the vehicle.

"The night of the accident, she needed to drink," labor arbitrator Huguette April said in a decision issued last month. "She admitted that even though she knew she shouldn't, the need was stronger, like something that she couldn't control." When the driver was arrested, her blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. A week after the crash, she told her employer she had a drinking problem. Her firing was made official on Aug. 31 last year, after she had completed an in-patient addiction program. She told the arbitrator that the company could have installed an alcohol ignition interlock device or found other work for her.

Her firing was challenged by the Teamsters Canada union, though a spokesperson for Groupe Robert, which is appealing the decision, says the agreement between the company and the union clearly states that the penalty for drunk driving is immediate firing. Andrew Clark at the Globe and Mail calls the driver's decision to appeal the firing instead of seeking a new line of work a "head-scratcher." "It is difficult to understand how a person could be guilty of drinking nine beers and crashing a truck and yet think they deserve to keep their job as a trucker," he writes. (More truck driver stories.)

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