Public Safety

Off-duty OWI can be job-related misconduct

Man fired because he lost his driver's license, a job requirement

(iStock)
(iStock)

OTTUMWA — The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that driving drunk can be job-related misconduct, even if the incident occurs on the employee’s own time.

The ruling announced this week involves a former employee of the Wapello Rural Water Association who was terminated after being cited for a first offense operating while under the influence.

The citation meant the loss of his driver’s license and, since most of his work involved driving to sites to help customers, he was terminated.

The arrest was not made while the employee was in a company vehicle or on duty. But it cost him his license, and having a driver’s license was a condition of employment.

A district court ruling connected the two, saying loss of the license, “whether it resulted from conduct on or off duty,” was reason for termination.

In its review, the appeals court compared the case to one from 1980 in which a man lost employment as a delivery driver after the employer’s insurance carrier refused to cover him after he received numerous speeding tickets. In that case, the courts concluded he lost his job for “self-inflicted uninsurability,” which qualified as work-related misconduct.

The parallels between that case and this one were enough for the court to conclude that the employee was in fact fired for misconduct, and that the Employment Appeals Board correctly found he was ineligible for unemployment benefits.

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