Suspended/Fired For Drinking Off-Site


Can you be suspended or fired for having one beer in the parking lot outside your work after clocking out for your shift?

Consider the parking lot is not owned by the company, but in a shopping center shared by other stores and this was not in front of the store but in front of another business located in an almost different parking area




Dear Worried:

You don’t indicate if the employee is you or someone else. I’ll respond as though it was you–and hope it was not! Unless you work for a company with a labor contract or an employment agreement, you could be suspended or fired for anything that seems to your employer to create a problem related to work or that provided evidence of character concerns that might affect work.

It seems there must have been some other issue involved. For example, was there a law violation? In most communities it is a law violation to consume alcohol in a car, parked or not. The presumption is that you will likely drive.

Even if the police didn’t respond, your employer may feel that you broke the law and he or she doesn’t want an employee who would do that.

Did someone complain? How did your employer find out? Had there been a problem with alcohol before? It might be that one or more of those things were considered by the employer to be worthy of sanctions or dismissal. It could be that another employer would consider it to be off-site and off-duty, but it might not be considered that way to your employer.

If you think there are state laws regarding firing criteria that might be being violated, check the Department of Labor website for your state, or call them. I don’t believe there would be any state regulation about this, especially if you work for a small business.

If you want to keep your job, I suggest the approach of assuring the employer that it was a lapse in judgment that won’t happen again. If there were no laws broken you might want to assure your employer of that fact, but say that now that you know how your employer feels about it, it won’t happen again.

I’m hoping you have a good enough relationship with your employer that any misunderstanding about it will be cleared up quickly.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.