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Alcoholics still have to follow work rules

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The ADA protects people who are alcoholics from discrimination based on their disability. That doesn’t mean, however, that alcoholic employees don’t have to follow standard workplace behavioral rules.

Simply put, alcoholism isn’t an excuse for poor behavior—and you don’t have to tolerate it.

Recent case: Police Chief Charles Budde decided to drive home after drinking four or five glasses of wine at the local Moose Lodge. He rear-ended a car, injuring the driver and a passenger. Budde’s blood alcohol level tested at 0.23, which is roughly three times the legal limit in Illinois.

Budde was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He lost his driver’s license. Then the jurisdiction he worked for fired him for breaking a workplace rule requiring him to obey all laws.

He sued. Since alcoholism is a disability, he contended, he should have been accommodated by retaining his job.

The court didn’t buy Budde’s argument. It said employers could demand that employees follow workplace rules and don’t have to accept disabilities as an excuse. In this case, the employer could certainly expect its police chief to refrain from driving while intoxicated. (Budde v. Kane County Forest Preserve, No. 09-2040, 7th Cir., 2010)

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