OVIs & Employment: Can You Be Fired for Drunk Driving in Ohio?

Posted On: August 31st, 2023 by Bradley J. Groene
Driver holding beer with police lights in background image

Cincinnati, OH, sees its fair share of OVI arrests. For those who find themselves on the wrong side of this charge, the aftermath can be full of questions and uncertainty. A primary concern of most people charged with drunk driving is whether the arrest and possible conviction will affect their jobs. Questions like, “What will I tell my boss?” “Will I get fired for drunk driving?” “Do I even have to tell work about this?” and more will swirl in your head.

Here, the Cincinnati DUI lawyers at LHA delve into the intricacies of Ohio OVI charges and how they can impact your job.

You Should Worry. Ohio is At-Will

Ohio operates under “at-will” employment. This means either the employer or the employee can end the relationship at any time, for any reason, or even for no reason at all, as long as it’s not illegal or retaliatory.

Given this, if you’re arrested for a DUI, your employer could decide to terminate your employment, deeming your behavior inconsistent with the company’s values or detrimental to its reputation. The decision is almost squarely based on their discretion.

OVIs Are Tough on Careers

Getting an OVI in Ohio is a major life disruption. In addition to a suspended license and maybe getting your car impounded, you will almost certainly need time off from work for court appearances, possible jail time, or treatment programs.

While you can use PTO (Paid Time Off) for such situations, it doesn’t safeguard your job. PTO is also not infinite. The standard two weeks and sick time typically won’t be sufficient. If your absence is extensive or disrupts the normal functioning of your role, your employer could deem it as grounds for termination.

What if Driving is Part of Your Job?

A drunk driving charge is especially problematic for those whose jobs revolve around driving – like delivery drivers or truckers with a CDL. Not only does it immediately question your reliability and safety as a driver, but a suspended license could render you incapable of fulfilling your job requirements.

Additionally, many companies have insurance policies that might not cover employees with DUIs. This frequently comes as a shock to many employees who drive company vehicles or regularly travel for work. To many employers, if they can’t insure you as their employee, it becomes too much of a liability to employ you.

What if driving isn’t your primary role?

Not everyone is a professional driver, but most people occasionally need to drive for work tasks, like meeting clients. While you could try to make accommodations using public transport, taxis, and Uber, an employer could argue that driving is integral to your role. In such cases, they’re likely within their right to end your employment, citing the DUI as a hindrance to your responsibilities.

You Can Even Be Fired If Your Job Doesn’t Involve Driving At All

Even if your job has zero driving involvement, a DUI can still impact your employment – even your first drunk driving offense. If you’re in a profession that demands public trust – educators, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, and politicians, to name a few – a DUI tarnishes that trust. There could be pressure from superiors or the public that might compel the employer to let you go.

Moreover, some professionals might face licensing issues with their respective boards due to a DUI conviction.

An OVI Will Hurt Future Job Opportunities Too

Aside from what happens with your current employer, most future jobs will require a background check before hiring. And a DUI on your record is a quick way to get disqualified. You will also likely be precluded from jobs that require driving, operating heavy machinery, or significant travel. Also, any profession that requires licensure or a security clearance may no longer be an option with an OVI conviction.

Do I Need to Tell My Boss About a DUI?

Aside from some licensed professionals like doctors and nurses, there’s no mandate to inform an employer of getting arrested for OVI immediately. If you have an employment contract or company handbook, familiarize yourself with their disciplinary procedures and notification requirements. For instance, you may only need to inform your employer if the charges are of a specific severity or result in conviction.

However, being upfront is generally a good idea, especially if it might affect your job functions.

How to Keep Your Job if You’re Charged with OVI

In the unfortunate event of a DUI arrest in Ohio, your best plan of action is to seek legal counsel. An experienced Ohio OVI attorney can guide you through the legal maze, possibly helping reduce charges or penalties. This will hopefully mitigate the harm of a conviction on your career and livelihood.

For instance, if your attorney can successfully get your OVI case dismissed quickly, you may be able to avoid the need to tell your employer. In cases where a dismissal isn’t possible, if you can negotiate a plea for no jail and secure driving privileges quickly, you may be in a better position when you inform your boss.

A DUI Lawyer & Avoiding Conviction is Your Best Option

While Ohio’s “at-will” status makes getting an OVI a major complication on your employment, it does not automatically spell the end of your job. You can improve your situation by understanding the implications, preparing for potential outcomes, and seeking the most favorable result.

If you or a loved one need help dealing with a Cincinnati-area OVI, contact the Cincinnati defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates. Call 513-338-1890 or contact us for a free, confidential case evaluation to learn more.