17. The ADA and Alcoholism

Oce: Hi I’m Oce

David: I’m David and we’re from the New England ADA Center.

Oce: Let’s discuss 5 common questions about alcoholism and the ADA. First things first, are people with alcoholism protected by the ADA?

David: Yes, alcoholism is protected under the ADA. But let me ask you this, what if an employee was constantly late for work due to a hangover?

Oce: Let’s keep it simple, consider this scenario:  An employer warns an employee several times about her tardiness. The employee responds, “But I’m an alcoholic, and I’m late because of my drinking”.

David: Okay, but must an employer excuse employee  tardiness due to alcoholism?

Oce: Now, easy does it, an employer does not have to allow an employee to arrive late due to drinking the night before. This brings us to another issue and our 4th question- can an employer discipline an employee with alcoholism for misconduct or poor performance related to drinking?

David: Yes, the ADA states that an employer may hold an employee who has alcoholism to the same performance & behavior standards as other employees.

Oce: So, failing to perform duties due to alcoholism is subject to appropriate discipline.

David: That’s right, and finally, what if an employee admits, “I know I have a problem” and requests to go into rehab? Does an employer have to allow it?

Oce: Yes, the employer must grant the employee’s request to enter rehab unless it causes the employer great difficulty or expense.  Well, we’re out of time. And if you want to turn this over a little more, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has guidance on their website at EEOC.gov

David: Thanks for listening!