update: my coworker was arrested for DUI and hasn’t told our employer

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker was arrested for DUI but hadn’t told their employer, despite driving being a big part of the job? Here’s the update.

I wanted to thank Alison for answering my letter and for the insight of the AAM community. I will start off by saying that the MYOB crowd was absolutely way off base on this one – the situation put all of our jobs independently at risk and our contract as a whole at risk (so, basically everyone at our client’s location). I am totally a MYOB person but this just couldn’t be “let go.”

I’m also a very direct person, but I liked the idea of going straight to my boss given the fact that I just don’t know this guy very well and I wasn’t totally comfortable speaking with him. However, my other coworker in the carpool has been here longer and assured me it would be fine for the carpool to have a conversation with him (because honestly, whether or not he likes confrontation, he has to learn how to be an adult and deal with it).

We didn’t all jump in and gang up on him – we just brought up the fact that keeping it quiet was an issue (and why) and that we were now in pretty awful spots by keeping it quiet as well. We highlighted the fact that for the sake of his own job, the sooner he came clean the better. That got one pretty snarky comment but I handled it – it’s not our fault he made a poor choice, so we shouldn’t have to deal with it.

It ended up being okay – he talked to his boss that day and was told to disclose the situation to the main office by X date. The coworkers on his team (and ultimately the only ones affected by his inability to drive at work) were informed and took care of making sure he did as he was told. He was pretty quiet for about a week and spent some time working on getting a restricted license for work. It all ended up coming through pretty quickly once he started actually trying to figure things out for himself, and I think our company was pretty lenient (though probably understood that this guy honestly didn’t even think about the fact that this situation impacted his job).

Also, very unexpectedly, he apologized to us (and confirmed my suspicions that he really just had no clue how big of a deal it was for us to know and not tell). Our company just released a new handbook for 2016 along with a bunch of other documents and we now have a company-required track to take for things like this in the future. I don’t think everything has blown over quite yet, but at least our part in this is done. I think the moral of the story is that transparency is really important – people make mistakes, but how you handle the aftermath is what matters the most in the long run.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte

    Wow, OP, you and your co-workers rock. And points to the guy for coming back and apologizing–that’s a really good sign about his relationship to his co-workers.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      Yeah, I think talking to him has a lot of positive results: he understands about putting his co-workers in a bad place; he knows that taking care of things is better than trying to ignore them; OP is better at speaking up; management has written plans for if something like this happens again. All around, it is a good result — the best kind of update.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Well, I thought so too, but when I got to the part where the OP said “I don’t think everything has blown over quite yet”, it sounded to me like his apology was given somewhat begrudgingly.

      1. Shell

        I interpreted that as the matter has been resolved but not completely done with/in the past; that is, the guy got his restricted license, reported everything as per procedure, got all paperwork updated as need be, etc…but the suspension on his regular license hasn’t lifted yet and/or he may be getting some side-eye for letting this sit so long. Though I may be giving him the benefit of the doubt based solely on his volunteering an apology, instead of being told to do so.

        1. OP

          Yeah I meant more from the company’s view – it’s not totally resolved and there’s likely a higher level of distrust on his team. However, he’s not back in our carpool and he hasn’t broached the topic so I don’t think he feels like it’s blown over with us either.

          1. Not So NewReader

            The company must be waiting on the court to close the case or waiting on probation reports or some type of medical assessment or similar. Depending on the particulars, these cases can go on for years.

          2. fposte

            And I think that’s appropriate. This wasn’t a situation where he could make things to back to the way they used to be. But they could also have gotten even worse than this, and you guys did a good job of making sure it didn’t.

  2. Roscoe

    Nice update. Could have done without trying to tell the commenters who didn’t agree with you were “way off base” though.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I actually appreciated the updated. The comments were really split, so learning that this was in fact critical and job impacting helps fill in some of the debate.

    2. Random Lurker

      Agree, even if you were right. Why write in asking what to do if you aren’t willing to consider opinions offered you? I remember reading the original letter and wondering what made OP so sure he was hiding it from management. After all, he seemed to nonchalantly mention it to carpooling. Looking at it from that front, “MYOB” isn’t necessarily out of left field.

      Regardless, glad it worked out and am very glad he isn’t driving. Hopefully he uses common sense the next time he’s had too much to drink.

      1. Roscoe

        Thats fair I guess. It just came off as writing for people’s opinion, then saying “your opinions were wrong”.

        1. Owl

          The LWs are generally writing for Alison’s opinion, though, right? The additional comments from readers are just a bonus.

          1. fposte

            Yeah, we’re just the price of admission :-).

            And, you know, if we get to say the OP is wrong, the OP has an equal right to say we’re wrong.

      2. OP

        Yes – it was definitely just an FYI. There were some readers, even after I commented more details (like that he specifically asked us not to say anything), who were really intent on this being a MYOB thing. But it really wasn’t, and I wanted future readers to know that should they find themselves in a similar situation.

        1. Not So NewReader

          With anything that is felony level and maybe certain misdemeanors, it’s really not up to the accused to ask people not to tell the bosses. Additionally, many places have reporting requirements so the option is not left up to coworkers to decide.
          Ugh, I have seen people fired for stealing, but they did not steal from their employer and their job did not involve handling money. It happens.

    3. BRR

      Looking back to the first letter it does not really indicate that many jobs and a contract were at risk, it seems to be in the “not really sure” territory. I think the commenting might have gone differently had that come across more clearly and the LW having that knowledge (and that it was their job on the line) is looking at the commenting from a different angle.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Am smiling. It’s interesting to me how sometimes a person who strongly says NO, NEVER, can help me to decide to go ahead and do that very thing. A naysayer can help solidify our thinking, but just not always in the direction they are saying. If someone walks away from a conversation thinking, “I want to do this”, I think that the naysayer has actually helped the person get their thoughts collected.

    4. Mando Diao

      I think it’s valuable to know that, when it came time to actually resolve the issue, there ended up being one approach that worked, while the other one definitely wouldn’t have. Nothing wrong with informing incorrect people that they were incorrect, and there is also no need to soften the blow if the situation really was serious.

    5. Liana

      I mean, we tell the OPs when we think they’re off base all the time; it doesn’t seem reasonable not to let them say the same to us if they think so.

  3. Shell

    I am pleasantly surprised by the guy’s apology, and it does make up somewhat for his negligence in letting this lie for so long.

    Well done, OP and coworkers, for handling the situation.

    1. Sparkly Librarian

      Oh no. I got a Folgers commercial, and then something about Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. (Inoffensive, especially as I had already scrolled past into the comments.)

    2. gsa

      My ad was for automobile touch up paint kit for a particular manufacturer. I have been searching the interwebs for this item. This is not an indictment; some sites show ads based on what you have searched for in the past. Those dern innerwebs have gotten purdy smart!

  4. Jake

    This is why I try to assume ignorance before malice. Good on the OP for how she handled this whole thing.

  5. Nervous Accountant

    I’m so glad it worked out.

    I’m still shocked at the MYOB crowd and how there are people who don’t take DUI/DWI seriously.

        1. Ineloquent

          Actually, NM has some crazy strict laws on the books for drunk driving, including having your car seized on your first offense. It doesn’t stop people though.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Even states that supposedly do take it seriously, the laws have no real teeth. And if the person lives out of state, that makes things even more encumbered.

    1. Juli G.

      I take a DUI seriously, I just don’t think it disqualifies someone from employment (unless a license is vital).

      I’ll cop to be a big “ban the box” advocate and admit to a lot of research into recidivism in college so maybe I’m more sympathetic than most?

    2. Roscoe

      I don’t think people don’t take it seriously. Its more that people like me don’t think it automatically makes you a bad person or bad employee. Nor do I think its my bosses business, unless driving for work is a requirement.

  6. JMW

    Dear OP, you handled this so well! You sought advice, you chose a path that let your co-worker take responsibility, and you were firm, reasonable, and caring. And your company handled this well, too. My favorite follow-up to date!!

  7. Anonypony

    Someone irresponsible enough for DUI doesn’t deserve a restricted license for work, they deserve to lose it forever.

    1. NutellaNutterson

      I’m definitely not a dui apologist, but someone can pretty innocently be at the limit without realizing it. Unless we have a “total abstinence for drivers” policy, asking people to use their judgement (about having alcohol and driving in the same day) is going to result in errors in judgment. Aka the possibility of a DUI. I honestly prefer to be completely sober if I know I’m driving, but many folks can and do have a drink with dinner, etc. and then drive home, while under the limit.

      1. fposte

        I think it’s pretty tough to be innocently at the limit, really; if you’ve drunk enough to be near, you’ve drunk too much to be on the road anyway. Remember .08 is just the per se limit–you can still get a DUI even if your BAC is lower than that, because you can still be impaired.

    2. fposte

      I’d love to see some research on which approaches seem to be most beneficial longterm. The problem with outright loss of license is that it may mean loss of employment, which shifts the cost for the driver’s support to tax dollars; then, of course, there’s the problem of people who drive on a suspended license. I think interlock devices have changed the game hugely, too.

      1. Not So NewReader

        The new IIDs have GPS. It’s random, but sometimes if the driver stops the car and a few minutes later restarts it, the IID will allow the car to go for a while. Then the computer in the IID will demand the driver pull over and breathe. The assumption is the driver went into a convenience store, bought alcohol and is now drinking while driving. If the driver does not pull over then something else happens, but I am not sure what happens.
        Problems abound. One of which is that a friend could breathe into the device. They will figure it out, I am sure.

    3. Not So NewReader

      This goes into what do we want from our legal system, do we want a strictly punitive system or do we want people to have the chance to rehab themselves.

      While I will admit I do not have a lot of patience in instances of drunk driving, I am also not certain that everyone needs to have a full, permanent revocation of their license. I do believe that every convicted person should go for counseling and should attend victims’ impact sessions, in addition to other things such as restitution, jail time, and fines.

      1. Jean

        Not So NewReader and fposte, you have me thinking serious thoughts. I agree that convicted people should go for counseling, victims’ impact sessions, etc. but in a perfect world I would want to stop all drunk/impaired drivers including the so-called lucky ones who don’t get caught while they weave their cars homeward. Why should a few moments of stupidity be allowed to cause a lifetime of heartache for the careless drivers, the people they kill (including, sometimes, themselves), and their extended families?

        It’s easy for me to say this, because my social life never really involved much drinking. (Also, for the past 25+ years I’ve been a teetotaler thanks to my Delicate Stomach.) But ugh, I hate the annual springtime crop news stories about young people killed on the roads.

        It’s almost as bad when one careless decision imperils the livelihood of an entire company of coworkers. Compliments to the OP for handling the situation with such determination and dexterity.
        Okay, rant over.

        1. Jean

          Oops. Editing fail. Someone who gets killed can’t also experience “a lifetime of heartache.”
          Time to dial down my rhetoric. (Blush.)

        2. Not So NewReader

          I see your ideal world and raise you one. I think that people who fall asleep or use their cell phone* behind the wheel should have something happen in their lives also. But as you are pointing to here reality comes crashing in to our ideal world and there is always a new crop of people to convert to sober/alert drivers.

          *More people die from cell phone accidents than drunk drivers. Jaw-droppingly, people can become quite vehement in defending their own cell phone use while driving.
          “But, I had to know if my kid arrived okay.”
          “But, I had to know that my spouse was working late.”
          And on it goes. One excuse after another.

      2. Temperance

        I’ve seen the “rehabilitation” process fail with drunk drivers so many times, though – one of these women who was given repeated slaps on the wrist killed a relative of mine. It was her 4th alcohol-related arrest and her 3rd DUI (which means, given the area she lived in, she probably drove drunk hundreds of times).

        1. Roscoe

          Yeah, but I also think there are a ton of people who screw up once and never do it again. I don’t know the numbers, but my guess was that if the majority of DUI’s were consisted of multiple offenders, then the law would change. You can always find outliers, but I’m curious at where the actual majority of people fall.

    4. Mando Diao

      While I think that driving drunk is one of the worst things you can do, I don’t believe that every person who does so suffers from alcoholism. I’ve known a few people who found themselves in genuinely tough situations (women who’d been ditched by dates and didn’t feel safe where they were, people who called every cab service in the local 411 and found that all of those numbers were disconnected – in the days before Uber and smartphones).

      That said, playing dumb about it when your job involves driving is butt-stupid.

      1. Temperance

        I also don’t care if the person is an alcoholic – your right to drive drunk stops when you put other people in danger, regardless of whether you can help yourself or not.

        1. NutellaNutterson

          But a lot (all?) of the sentencing mandates treatment of the drivers alcohol consumption. And framing it as alcoholism rather than abuse/misuse means that folks are asked to “admit they are powerless over alcohol” etc etc when that’s not going to be helpful as actual treatment and prevention.

    5. Kitty

      My husband has a DUI from years ago where he went to dinner with a friend, had a single beer, started driving home, and had the front tire of his vehicle explode. The vehicle rolled 3 times and landed on the roof on an empty 4 lane road. Losing his license for a year due to mechanical failure of his 6 month old tires… Let’s just say he’s still a bit bitter but he won’t even get in the passenger seat unless he’s completely sober anymore. It turns out it was stupid of him to be honest with the cops about having a beer at dinner. But hey 120 hours of group therapy, 80 hours of community service, $5000 in fines, and $1000s of extra insurance cost later at least he does routine inspections on our tires. Turns out the legal limit doesn’t matter in a single car crash.

    6. Roscoe

      Well, good thing many people and the laws disagree with you. I’m not saying its a good thing, but a one time mistake shouldn’t have that kind of lifetime impact on someone, especially if its one of those where you are technically over the legal limit, but not very much impaired.

  8. Erin

    I too am surprised that your company was so lenient. It’s definitely so true that how you handle your mistakes is everything.

    I know of someone who got a DUI whose main duty at their job involved driving. They were so ashamed they just quit on the spot without telling them what happened. It makes me wonder if they’d been honest and upfront about it, maybe they could have gotten some leniency.

    Anywho. Glad everything has worked out for the most part. :) It does sound like he did not understand the gravity of the situation, and now that he does he’s acting accordingly.

    1. Not So NewReader

      That was probably the right thing to quit, especially if the person felt she would not win in court. The problem comes in that if the company does not make the person quit, the company’s insurance company probably will make the person quit, by driving up premiums or canceling the policy entirely.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Wanted to add, a lot of this will be moot in the future as automated services will just notify the employer of the arrest. In the future employers will find the information in their email.
        And so will the the employer’s insurance company, as they subscribe to the same service.

    2. BadPlanning

      I don’t know about the OPs job, but my impression is that truck drivers and specialized drivers in general are pretty high in demand. It may be that if the supply/demand were different, they would have fired him.

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