Some employers foolishly worry that they may violate the ADA or the
Furthermore, being an alcoholic is no excuse.
Note: Keep in mind that the FMLA probably applies if a doctor certifies that an employee needs inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse.
Recent case: Diane Ames worked for a Home Depot store and told her supervisor that she thought she had a problem with alcohol. He referred her to the company’s . She began counseling through the program and also signed an agreement acknowledging that she could be fired if she tested positive on a blood-alcohol test.
One day, she showed up at work allegedly smelling of alcohol and acting out of character. Her supervisor sent her to take a blood test. About the same time, Ames began looking for an inpatient alcohol treatment program, since she had also recently been arrested for driving under the influence. Home Depot fired her when the blood test came back positive for alcohol.
Ames sued, charging that she should have been granted for treatment. By firing her, she argued, she couldn’t exercise her right to take that leave.
The court agreed with Ames that inpatient treatment would qualify for FMLA leave—but it dismissed the lawsuit anyway. It reasoned that Home Depot had fired Ames for a separate and legitimate reason—testing positive for alcohol in her system while at work. That violated a company rule. (Ames v. Home Depot, No. 08-CV-6060, ND IL, 2009)
Final note: You can always punish rule-breaking behavior, even if that behavior may be related to a serious health condition or a disability.
- Cut your retaliation risk: Make sure training is open to everyone who's eligible
- Warn bosses: Do nothing that discourages FMLA leave or punishes those who take it
- Don't let tummy aches turn into entitlements
- BLS report: Union membership continues its slow decline
- Don't let FMLA trip you up: Have HR investigate leave abuse