According to a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a company that fires an employee for repeated drinking on the job cannot be penalized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although the employee struggled with alcoholism, the judges of the Third Court determined that the company had not taken any discriminatory measures in firing him when he started drinking again. Because the employee breached a contract he had made previously with the company, drunk driving attorneys in New Jersey say that his violation warranted his firing, and that repeat instances of careless alcohol-induced behavior, including drunk driving, often warrant high penalties.
In the spring of 2009, Thomas Ostrowski took a brief leave of absence from his job as a truck driver for Con-way Freight, and used that time to attend an rehabilitation facility, where he received counseling and treatment for his dependency on alcohol. When he completed his rehab stint, he returned to his job, and signed a return-to-work agreement, or RWA, which stated that he would refrain from taking drugs or drinking completely, both at and outside of work, as long as he was an employee of Con-Way.
Despite this agreement, Ostrowski relapsed and began drinking again. He resumed his treatment, but Con-Way fired him a month later, citing his violation of the terms agreed upon in the RWA. Senior Judge Jane R. Roth, in issuing the court’s decision, acknowledged that Ostrowski had been held to a different standard than the other Con-way employees, but because he agreed to sign the RWA of his own accord, the company’s action cannot be considered discriminatory. But Ostrowski’s firing does raise the problem of having repeat DUI/DWI offenders in a driving-related job.
In New Jersey, truck drivers who have problems with alcohol run the risk of not only losing their jobs, but also being caught out on the road and slapped with drunk driving charges and penalties. Commercial truck drivers also face a mandatory loss of their commercial driver’s license when they are convicted of drunk driving, which costs them their ability to drive trucks. The state’s legal limit for a blood alcohol test is 0.08 percent, with enhanced penalties for an aggravated level of 0.10 percent or higher. Chemical testing such as breathalyzers are administered under an implied consent law, meaning that drivers who have applied for a New Jersey driver’s license automatically give their consent to submit to a breathalyzer if stopped for suspected DUI/DWI activity. A refusal to give a breath sample could result in a license suspension of up to 7 months, and a fine between $300 and $500.
Drivers with more than one drunk driving arrest face increased penalties. A third offense is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or more and up to 180 days in jail. A third-time DUI driver may also be forced to give up his or her license and right to drive for up to ten years, or install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle in order to continue driving.
At New Jersey-based law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our drunk driving attorneys represent drivers who have been caught driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. If you are facing charges from a drunk driving arrest, contact a New Jersey drunk driving attorney at HCK for a free, no-strings consultation.