Persons convicted of a DUI or another alcohol-involved crime, such as battery, may face the risk of job loss, depending on the type of position held and terms of employment. In many cases, the employer has the right to terminate employment. It is important to keep in mind that civil rights and employment laws protect Americans from employer practices, such as unfair bias, but employment laws are not generally a guarantee of the right to work or keep a job.In the eyes of the law, work is generally seen as a contractual relationship (even if there is no paper contract in existence) between an employer and employee. Employees who have an actual contract in place with their employer are best advised to review the contract to learn if there is a mandatory firing clause. It is more likely that if there is such a clause, the firing will happen as a result of a conviction and not just an arrest.
Certain transportation jobs, such as commercial vehicle drivers, taxi drivers, and aircraft pilots will understandably risk job loss if convicted of an alcohol-related offense, especially a DUI. If the DUI occurs while on the job, it can also be construed as gross misconduct, and the employee may lose the right to state unemployment insurance. As these individuals hold commercial driving licenses, the issuing agency may initiate an administrative process (separate from the criminal process) to revoke the individual’s commercial license. The loss of the license extends beyond the specific job and in effect revokes the privilege of being employed anywhere that the commercial license is required at least temporarily. The individual may have an opportunity to regain the license, such as by attending rehab and meeting other requirements.
Professionals, such as attorneys, doctors, and accountants are members of associations that issue them licenses to practice their trade. In the event of a DUI conviction, or other alcohol-related conviction, the license-issuing agency has the right to revoke the professional member’s license. In this way, a DUI conviction can cause people to not only lose their specific jobs, but also their livelihoods (at least temporarily). Although agencies that issue professional licenses may work with the professional member to reinstate the license, the agency has the discretion to permanently revoke the license.In some cases, a DUI or alcohol-related conviction can reflect poorly on one’s character and lead to job loss for this reason. For instance, high school teachers are held to a high professional standard because they are role models for youth. A school district could decide to immediately terminate convicted teachers or at least not renew their teaching contracts. There can also be fallout publicly; in some locales, especially small ones, word can spread quickly that a teacher or other respected professional in the community has been arrested or convicted for an alcohol-related offense.
In some instances, people may lose their employment indirectly due to their DUI or alcohol- involved arrest. For example, individuals may not be able to fulfill their work requirements in order to attend ongoing court hearings, serve community service, or attend an alcohol treatment program. The employer would have the right to terminate the employee on the grounds of inability to perform job duties. In some instances, state unemployment may not be granted.