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.
- Abused employee: Give her FMLA or let her go?
- Good records win lawsuits: When disciplining, be as specific as possible
- Ready to fire worker with poor attitude? Document examples before you deliver pink slip
- Always investigate harassment before firing
- Government workers squeezed as economy shrinks tax base