Human Resources/Intoxicated boss


QUESTION: Hello Jim, I work for a city municipality in Phoenix, Arizona. I have been employed with this entity for over 3 years and been having an issue with my supervisor/boss.

So for the last year or so, everyone in our department has noticed that our boss has been having an alcohol smell coming off of him. Lately we have smelled it on him midway through his shift. The mindset of every single one of my coworkers have the same feeling, and that if we (part-timers) file a complaint to HR, our boss will just get a slap on the wrist,  and are afraid of retaliation. So basically, no one wants to stand up and say anything.

Last Saturday, another part time employee from another department approached me and asked if I had noticed the smell as well. She then went not to say that the smell is a "fresh" liquor smell and not one that is from the night before. The fear for our jobs is so widespread, that NOT ONE person is willing to put their neck out there and file a complaint.

Ok, so when I was hired, HR made it clear that because I am a partimer, I therefore lack the job protection of a full time employee and are in a much lower class of people than our full time counterparts. HR then went over the drug/alcohol policy for employees on and off the clock. Full time employees, if suspected of drug/alcohol abuse on or off the clock, have two options 1. They enter rehab, get help with their problem. or 2. Do not take the rehab option and face termination. For a part timer,  there is only one option, which is termination.

With all that being said, what is my best approach to this? Jobs are very hard to get, and I do not want to risk mine. I have looked at the anonymous approach, however, I do not see an option for this. Is it in my best interest to just do as everyone else and just keep my head down? Or perhaps, because other people from other departments are noticing, to just sit back and let the situation "handle" itself?

Thank you for whatever advice you can give.
Sincerely, Jared Cruz.

ANSWER: Jared:
Based on your description it really sounds like a no-win situation.  Legally,for the record, permanent part time employees DO enjoy the same protections as a full-timer regardless of what the HR person said.
Now as to the alcohol situation.  You did not indicate any behavioral issues with the boss. If there are none and the only indication of an issue is the smell of alcohol, there is really nothing anyone can do to deal with this.  Example, having a beer at lunch is not a policy violation (per se). So either directly or secretly blowing the whistle here will not result in any real change (especially if the boss is a long timer).
If there are substantial behavioral issues, i.e. abuse, yelling screaming, etc that would be grounds for a complaint to HR. There has to be some sort of triggering event to alert (officially) the powers that be.  If otherwise, he/she is a decent supervisor, ride it out and see what happens.
Hope this helps.  Please follow up.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Jim, thank you for the response. As to my part time position, every part timer is considered "temporary". I have been "temporary" for over three years. Some of my co-workers have been "temporary" for over 8or 9 years. As to my boss, he has become very lax about his job. He no longer orders supplies, he no longer does the things that a supervisor is supposed to do. He let's things pile up in our department and we, his underlings, have to basically fend for ourselves. He says inappropriate things about customers and even some employees. At one point, he was the best boss I have ever had. But that all changed. Just 12 months ago, he was under investigation for sexual harassment. All charges have been dropped however. He also has these rapid mood swings. What is your suggestion?
Sincerely, Jared C.

ANSWER: Jared:
Wow!  Being a "temp" definitely makes your situation precarious.  I'm not sure that Temp status is quite legal after 2 years but thats not something we can deal with here.  If you as a group feel that the hr folks would actually listen it might be helpful to have the conversation.  Does he have any friends that could speak with him?
Other than that, my suggestion is that unless he becomes overtly drunk and/or abusive, heep your heads down and try to ignore the situation  Anything else and I believe you would be placing yourself at risk.
I wish I could say more but obviously keeping your job is of paramount importance especially in this market.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Jim. Thanks once again for all of your help. I will heed your advice and keep my head down as I am not confident bringing this to HR's attention would help matters. One thing that did catch my attention, is the fact you said something about being a temporary employee for over 2 years could be illegal. Is there any area I could find out about this particular law? I would like nothing more than to be a permanent, regular full-time employee. As a part timer, we do not have anything in the form of benefits, whether that be health insurance, sick leave or vacation time. We basically work for a paycheck and are forbidden in working more than our alloted 30 hours a week. I have been with the city of Phoenix,  library department since December 2010. There is another part time employee that has been with the library department for nearly 9 years.

Out of the over 500 library employees that work in 16 library branches, about 430 are part timers, or temporary employees. Please, if you could steer me in the right direction of where I could find out further information on the laws regarding this,  it would be great help to me. Thanks once again.
Sincerely, Jared C.

  As for dealing with the situation.  This falls into the same category as dealing with the supervisor.  As for case law, if you remember Microsoft was sued by the govt regarding its policy on Contractors vs employee status.  If you check you will see what I mean.  
You could ask the hr folks about becoming a full time "employee" or just continue to play the game.  You may see some changes during the next year regarding benefits due to the healthcare law.
Sorry I cant give you a magic wand here.

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Jim Dromsky


I can answer questions relating to Management/Executive recruitment, retention and development. How to's relating to Organizational Development, Training, Succession planning, Management assessment and when to go outside instead of promoting from within. Additionally, questions on performance based compensation incentives, employment law, harassment, etc.


James Dromsky is Founder and CEO of Orion Consulting, Inc. During his twenty-five year career he has conducted and managed Executive Search and Human Resources consulting engagements in the Consumer Products, Electronics/Computer, Financial Services, Information Services, Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Transportation and DOD related industries. Prior to founding Orion Consulting, Inc., Mr. Dromsky functioned as Engagement Manager and Consultant for regional and national Search and Consulting Firms. He has successfully completed Search assignments for positions including President, General Manager, Vice President Operations, Vice President Finance/CFO, Vice President Marketing/Sales, Vice President Manufacturing, Vice President Engineering, Vice President R&D, Vice President Human Resources as well as Managerial, Supervisory and Professional Direct Contributor positions in all functional areas. As President of Orion Consulting for the past 23 years, Mr. Dromsky is directly involved in and responsible for all Search and Consulting engagements. These engagements have ranged on the Search side from a single top management assignment for a start-up firm to a 75 hire multi-year reconstruction of a major appliance manufacturing concern. The Consulting engagements have ranged in scope from individual assignments such as a targeted salary survey; development and implementation of database applications for a H.R. Information System in the consulting industry; design and growth of a software development team for the information services arena to the conceptualization and installation of a complete corporate Human Resources function. Mr. Dromsky received his education in Biology and Chemistry from Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. In addition, he has taken graduate course work at the same university in the area of Business and Marketing. Mr. Dromsky served in the U.S. Navy, which included a tour of duty in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Dromsky received his education in Biology and Chemistry from Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. In addition, he has taken graduate course work at the same university in the area of Business and Marketing. Mr. Dromsky served in the U.S. Navy, which included a tour of duty in Southeast Asia.

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