Termination Warranted for Failure to Follow Alcohol Service Policy

Prevented from serving alcohol to minors by a colleague’s last-minute intervention, a stadium beer seller was nevertheless fired by her employer who alleged that she had failed to follow proper procedures.

A stadium beer server with 14 years’ experience, J.D. had sold beer for numerous concession operators over the years. She had about one year’s seniority with the new concession operator when an incident involving minors in July 2009 led to her termination. Until that point, she had never been disciplined.

The alcohol concession at the stadium is regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which has the power to inspect, suspend and/or revoke licenses and to impose fines. The stadium’s licence has been suspended on a number of occasions.

The employer’s alcohol policy trains beer servers to request and inspect the identification (ID) of customers who appear to be under the age of 30. Procedures require that the ID be removed from the wallet for inspection and that those presenting out-of-province ID must also provide a secondary piece of ID. Servers sign an acknowledgement that failure to follow the policy may result in termination.

Beer spotters

The facility operator also employs its own “beer spotters” to monitor sales and consumption to ensure regulatory compliance. While under previous practice, the beer sellers could rely on the spotters to shoulder some of the burden of ID checks, a new policy introduced in 2009 made the servers solely responsible for performing ID checks.

During a baseball game on July 22, 2009, two customers approached J.D. In response to customer A’s request for two beers, J.D. returned initially with only one and inspected A’s ID. J.D. then responded to A’s request for the second beer with a query as to who the second beer was for. When A indicated that the second beer was for B, she asked to see B’s ID. J.D. cursorily examined B’s proffered ID — still encased in the wallet — before returning it and then going to get the second beer. At that point a beer spotter intervened and asked B to remove the ID from the wallet. Upon inspection, it was apparent that B’s ID had been altered. The beer spotter then examined A’s Quebec driver’s license, which revealed that A was underage. The sale was not completed and the two were charged.

A supervisor interviewed J.D. and the beer spotter. The next day J.D. was fired.

The union grieved the termination. J.D. had requested IDs and no beer had been served to minors. She had done nothing wrong, she maintained.

The Arbitrator disagreed. A was a minor as his ID showed. As she retrieved a beer from the fridge after viewing his ID, she clearly failed to examine the ID properly.

J.D. also failed to properly examine B’s ID, when she failed to insist that it be removed from the wallet. It was not enough that she had asked the spotter to inspect B’s ID — according to the new policy, she was responsible.

Negligent in the performance of her duties

“The grievor was indifferent to or negligent in the proper performance of her duties, through her failure to properly inspect customer ID out of a wallet, her failure to notice that the IDs of both A and B demonstrated that they were underage, her failure to ask to see a second piece of out-of-province ID, and her failure to ensure that she herself and not the spotter properly inspected the IDs,” the Arbitrator said.

Termination was justified the Arbitrator said in view of the significant consequences associated with violating the facility’s liquor licence. Licence suspensions — which had occurred — mean patrons can’t get beer and salespeople are out of work for the duration of the suspension.

J.D. had been trained in the proper procedures. She was in a position of trust, and she was aware of the consequences of a failure to follow the policy.

“Had this been a case where a server failed to perform his/her duties in checking ID properly on one occasion and then acknowledged the mistake, one might have confidence that progressive discipline short of discharge would prove sufficient to ensure that the employee in question would not commit the same mistake again. But that is not the case here, as the grievor continues to maintain that she did nothing wrong and continues to deny that she failed to properly check ID when I have concluded that she did so more than once during the events in question. I these circumstances, I decline to exercise my discretion to substitute a lesser penalty and the discharge will stand.”

Reference: Aramark Entertainment Services (Canada) Inc. and Workers United Ontario Council. Robert J. Herman — Sole Arbitrator. Andrea Bowker for the Union and Brett A. Christen for the Employer. May 4, 2010. 17 pp.

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