Is it OK if staff at my brother’s restaurant and bar drink on the job?

Question:

My brother is ill and I’m temporarily overseeing two of his business holdings, one of which is a restaurant with a bar and liquor license. Although I promised him I wouldn’t “gut everything” he’s built up, several things going on worry me.

The employees apparently think it’s OK to have a drink now and then when they’re working. Supposedly they pay for what they consume, but since we take in cash as well as credit, I haven’t been able to substantiate whether that’s true. I suspect my brother turns a blind eye to this and considers it a perk that keeps employees there.

What are best practices for restaurants and bars concerning employee on-the-job drinking?

Answer:

Alaska’s alcohol beverage laws don’t prohibit licensees or their agents and employees from drinking. Like many other smaller employers, many bar and restaurants lack policies banning alcohol use during working hours. Further, most restaurant and bar employees work hard and some party even harder. While some bars and restaurants prohibit drinking during or before shifts, other employers provide employees free end-of-shift drinks, and some allow bar employees to do shots with regulars.

These practices expose these employers to liability as employers can become liable if their employees get into vehicle accidents on their commute home. Allowing regular workplace drinking also places employees at risk, leading some of them to slip down the slope into alcoholism, which is endemic among bar and restaurant employees. After all, when almost everyone around drinks steadily, employees forget that this isn’t normal behavior but more how people act when out for the evening or socializing.

Best practices? You may need to tighten your business’s parameters for workplace drinking; however, if your brother has allowed alcohol as a perk, you’ll likely fight an uphill battle.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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