Q. An employee recently told us he has a drug problem and would like to take several weeks off to participate in a rehabilitation program. May we deny his request?
A. California Labor Code Section 1025 requires employers regularly employing 25 or more workers to “reasonably accommodate any employee who wishes to voluntarily enter and participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program” unless accommodation imposes an undue hardship. An employee may choose to use available sick leave, but the employer is not required to provide paid time off.
Employers should note that Section 1025 specifically states that employers may refuse to hire or may terminate workers with drug or alcohol problems if they are unable to perform job duties or endanger the safety and health of themselves or others. Moreover, the ADA doesn’t cover individuals currently engaged in illegal drug use.
Thus, since this employee is seeking to voluntarily enter a rehabilitation program, the company may be required to accommodate this request by providing unpaid (or sick) leave. Unfortunately, Section 1025 does not define “undue hardship,” so there’s no definite way for employers to know whether they have to provide the time off. Consult with your attorney before denying time off.