Controversial Corporate Policy Prohibits Boozing at Work

In a recent article published by the Associated Press, it was reported that employees of a Danish brewery walked-off the job to protest against the imposition of new rules regarding the consumption of alcohol during work hours.
For many years, Carlsberg, a popular brewery established in Denmark, had a corporate policy which permitted its workers to keep coolers filled with the brewer’s product around the workplace.  Employees were permitted to quench their thirst at any time during their work day by cracking open an iced cold beer.  The only restriction:  don’t get drunk.
However, in a move that was not well received by its employees the brewer recently revised its “drink while you work” policy.  Under the new rules, brewery workers will only be permitted to consume alcoholic beverages during their lunch hours.  Interestingly, Carlsberg’s truck drivers were not affected by the new rules; they may continue to bring several brewskies along with them while on deliveries.
As comical and absurd as the Carslberg employees’ protest might seem to most Canadians, this reminds us that employees are entitled to have the fundamental terms of their contracts respected.  Failure by employers to respect the terms of an employment agreement, whether express or implied, may give rise to a constructive dismissal entitling an employee to severance.
If there was a similar case in Canada, the disgruntled employees would have to establish that the old policy was an implied term of their employment contract and constituted a fundamental term.  In other words, the right to drink on the job was a benefit that they specifically relied upon when accepting the position.
Cédric Lamarche is an employment lawyer with the employment law firm Whitten & Lublin LLP.  He can be reached at [email protected].