The Employer’s Decision to Not Allow Interlock Devices – Just or Too Harsh?

The ignition interlock device seemed like a solution to a problem that scares many throughout Minnesota – it stops those with a history of drinking and driving from being able to operate an automobile without first confirming that the driver has not consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

However, there are unforeseen problems with the legislature’s solution to curtailing drinking and driving, especially when those with the problem are public employees.

More and more commonly, employers must decide what to do when an employee reports that she or he is unable to drive without either installing ignition interlock devices on employer vehicles or signing a waiver that allows that employee to drive an employer vehicle without restrictions.  It also sets the employer at odds with a union that wants its member to be able to continue working despite her or his license restrictions.

There have been multiple arbitrations over this issue in the last few years, and the decisions have not been consistent.  In a recent case between the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Foremens Association (, the arbitrator sided with the employer, and said it was not required to install an ignition interlock device on its vehicle or sign a waiver allowing the employee to drive without restriction.  However, this has not always been the case, and employers should consult with labor counsel prior to taking any drastic measures.

We, at the Wiley Law Office, are keeping an eye on the direction of these cases, and will be providing an in-depth look at the arbitrations on the issue over the last few years next week.  We will also be presenting on employee fitness for duty in regard to employee physical and mental restrictions as well as ignition interlock restrictions on driving privileges at the upcoming MPELRA conference this February.  There is much to learn for public employers, and they need to be prepared for the steps to take when an employee shows up on a Monday morning without the ability to drive.