Monday, November 21, 2005

A Lesson To Be Learned, But, Did It Soak In?

As the holidays approach...and I am leaving town, I want to leave you with this thought:

All the years I was in the restaurant business, my employees were allowed to eat pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for free. Of course, that didn't include times we were busy, like during the lunch or dinner rush. I never thought about charging them half price. They were there, they were pretty much stuck there, and they had to eat. I know, not all restaurants are alike, but, that was my policy.

I recently spoke to a dear friend. She told me she was on a two week probation period from work. That meant two weeks off, without pay. She is a bartender, and I must say, one of the best around. She told me she had consumed a few drinks while working and a fellow employee noticed her peculiar condition. That person then notified the manager, who conveyed the message to shut down for the night. Right now. He contacted her the next day and they met to discuss the situation. He put her on probation with a condition that she attend five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during this two week period, requisite for her return to work. Each meeting she went to had to be signed by the person in charge. If it took more than two weeks to complete, then so be it. You may return only after you fulfill this obligation.

She said to me, "Dave, I'm a bartender, for cryin' out loud, what do you expect me to do? That's part of my job."

I said, "No, it's not." I told her that I, too, work for a living, but I don't drink on the job. Just because you are there and are pretty much stuck there, that doesn't mean you have to drink. No one should drink on the job, any job.

"But, but, Dave..."

"No! Suppose you're a doctor or a nurse. Does that give you the right to take drugs on the job?"

"It's not the same thing."

"Why not? You're both dispensing some sort of 'medication,' aren't you?"

"What if I work in a restaurant? Can't I eat?"

"I don't think anyone ever got a DUI from eating a cheeseburger. Did you ever drink sausage gravy on the job?"


I told her a job is a job. Period. You are there to work. Period. If management allows you a drink or two after you complete your shift, well, that's a company decision, not yours to make. And bartenders, of all people! What happens if you are not cognizant of your surroundings? Suppose you serve one too many to a patron and they drive off. Or someone comes in who is already quite inebriated. You may be too wasted yourself to know how bad their condition is. Wouldn't you feel at least partially responsible for that person's safety, or the safety of the innocent people who might fall victim to a drunken driver? As a consummate professional in your field, isn't it an obligation, a requirement, to be in top form at all times on the job, to be keenly aware of the people you serve?

Everyone knows that alcohol softens your perception. Suppose you forget to card someone. The establishment may lose their license because of it. If you or someone else is injured on your watch and the insurance company finds out that alcohol consumption by an employee likely factored into the overall equation, well then, you can pretty much kiss that coverage goodbye. They won't have to pay. That is true anywhere you work. Honytonks and gin mills are not excluded.

What you do on your time is your business. What you do on company time is theirs. Besides, who's going to drive you home?

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