Q. An employee recently confided to us that he has a drug problem and would like to take several weeks off to participate in a rehabilitation program. Does the California Labor Code require us to grant him time off?
A. California Labor Code Section 1025 provides that employers regularly employing 25 or more workers are required to “reasonably accommodate any employee who wishes to voluntarily enter and participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program,” unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer.
Under Section 1027 of the code, an employee may choose to use available sick leave, but the employer is not required to otherwise provide paid time off to the employee participating in a drug rehabilitation program. Employers may also let the employees use vacation leave or paid time off for this purpose.
In addition, Section 1026 of the law requires that the employer take reasonable steps to safeguard the employee’s privacy regarding his or her enrollment in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program.
Employers should note that Section 1025 specifically states that employers may refuse to hire or discharge a worker with a drug or alcohol problem if he or she is unable to perform the job duties or endangers his or her safety and health or the safety and health of others.
In addition to these laws under the California Labor Code, drug and alcohol rehabilitation leave often involves issues that may be covered by the federal ADA and, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or all three.