New Jersey DWI News: Former FedEx Driver Denied Unemployment Benefits due to Off-hours DWI Arrest

A Federal Express delivery truck driver who was fired for a drunken driving-related traffic offense was recently denied an appeal to get New Jersey unemployment benefits. It’s no surprise that penalties for DWI and drug DUI offenses are pretty heavy in the New Jersey area. This story only brings home the point that retaining a qualified drunk driving defense attorney should always be foremost in one’s mind following a DWI arrest.

As a New Jersey DWI attorney, my office handles cases of motorists arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs on a regular basis. It’s not uncommon for many drivers charged with driving while intoxicated to get hit with fines and other monetary penalties as well as court-imposed jail sentences.

Additionally, this case should remind everyone that a DWI conviction can make a motorist ineligible to receive unemployment insurance. This is exactly what happened to Alan G. Roche last January after he was fired from his driving job at FedEx, also as a resul of his drunk driving arrest. In fact, recent appeals court decisions have upheld the denial of unemployment benefits due to a worker leaving a company voluntarily “without good cause attributable to the work.”

Based on reports, Roche was cited for drunk driving in February 2008 while driving his private car outside of working hours. Unfortunately for Roche, FedEx’s company policy calls for any driver who does not clear a DWI charge from their record within three months to either find other (non-driving) employment in the company or be fired.

Based on reports, FedEx put Roche on unpaid leave for three months, but the man was not able to clear himself of the DWI charge within that time period. When he checked for other jobs at FedEx that did not involve driving, he was told that there were no open positions. Roche was fired from FedEx in June of last year.

Roche applied for unemployment benefits in New Jersey the following month, however he was denied them. A state review board said that a precedent from Yardville Supply Co. v. Board of Review, 114 N.J. 371 (1989), a New Jersey Supreme Court case from 1989, required them to deny Roche’s claim.

In the Yardville case, that court also considered the situation surrounding another truck driver who had lost his driver’s license and was fired from his job. The court decided that unemployment benefits were only available to employees who were unemployed through no fault of their own. The court reasoned that because the driver apparently risked his driver’s license by drinking and driving, he was the one at fault for losing his job, not his former company.

In the case of Mr. Roche, his driving privileges were reportedly still valid at the end of the three-month interval outlined in FedEx’s corporate policy, but because the DUI charge itself had not been cleared, policy stated that he had to be terminated. On a side note, Roche did eventually plead guilty to the drunken driving charge and subsequently lost his license for three months.

Regardless of this individual’s specific case, anyone arrested for DWI should take the charges very seriously and consider the implications of a possible conviction. An experienced drunk driving defense attorney can be of immeasurable assistance in such cases.