Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Peru court backs 'drunk' worker

Peru's highest court has ruled that a worker who was dismissed for allegedly being drunk at work should not have been sacked and should be reinstated.

The judgement by the Constitutional Court said the man, a street cleaner, merely had alcohol on his breath.

The ruling was criticised by the prime minister for setting a precedent, but the judges said it was a one-off.

In many Latin American countries, smelling of alcohol at work can be grounds for dismissal.

The seven judges who make up Peru's highest judicial authority ruled that the sacking of Pablo Cayo, who worked in a suburb of Lima, had been excessive and that he should be reinstated.

'Attended wake'

The judgment has prompted debate amongst lawyers, and criticism from government ministers.

Peru's Labour Minister, Jorge Villasante, said the ruling could set a bad example for other workers, while some lawyers have pointed out it goes against a Peruvian law prohibiting drunkenness in the workplace.

I didn't turn up drunk, just smelling of alcohol
Pablo Cayo

Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the ruling was "shameful".

But one of the judges, Fernando Calle, said the court would not revise its decision and that Mr Cayo, who was sacked almost five years ago, had the right to due process.

He pointed out that the ruling did not set a precedent as the case was a one-off.

Another judge, Carlos Mesia, also defended the ruling, saying that under the law, workers could be sacked if they regularly turned up to work drunk, which was not the case with Mr Cayo.

Mr Cayo told Peruvian media that the night before he was sacked he had attended a wake.

"I didn't turn up drunk, just smelling of alcohol," he said.

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