Had a few beers throughout the workday but still can do your job just fine? Unless you work in a bar and those beers are stolen, you won’t get fired in Colombia.
A recent decision by the Constitutional court has ruled that turning up to work drunk or drugged, as long as it doesn’t affect your capability/capacity to work, is officially legal in Colombia.
A Colombian court has reinterpreted a section from the labor code that prohibits employees from attending work in a drunken state or under the influence of narcotics or stimulants. The ruling puts drug addiction and alcoholism at the same level as occupational illness, and argues that “these substances don’t always hinder how one performs at work”.
Understandably, this is generating controversy in a country that has seen a steep increase in its production and consumption of cocaine in the last years, according to Spanish outlet El País.
The case was brought to the courts by two law students of the University of Uniciencia in Bucaramanga. They presented a constitutional challenge, arguing that the incumbent labor law was in violation of two articles of the Constitution. The first stipulated that ‘all people are equal before the law and asserts that the state has an obligation to provide special protections for persons who owing to their economic circumstances or physical or mental condition, find themselves in a manifestly weak position’. The second article establishes ‘equality of opportunity for all workers’.
Their plea was centered on the fact that employers should not dismiss their workers on the grounds of having consumed certain substances if they can’t prove that said consumption has affected their ability to carry out the task. The court agreed.
Predictably, certain professions are exempted: the court has ruled out ‘activities that involve risks for the worker, for their workmates and third parties’ – with pilots being cited as an example.
Augusto Pérez, therapist and head of a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and prevention of drug use called “Nuevos Rumbos” (New paths) condemned the rulings. “This will have a negative effect on Colombian society” he warned. Pérez went on to say that this is “dangerous for the workers themselves…and gives them a free pass to do what they want.”
Expert in Constitutional law Juan Manuel Charry had different views. Speaking to EL PAÍS, Charry defended the ruling, arguing that ‘if there is no negligible behavior then the simple fact that someone has had something to drink or taken drugs shouldn’t be punishable’, giving the example of a worker who drank two glasses of wine during lunch. If there’s a surge in work accidents and layoffs in Colombia in the near future, you know why.