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In unemployment comp cases, alcoholism no defense to misconduct discharge

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in FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

Alcoholism may be a disability under the ADA and a serious health condition under the FMLA, but that doesn’t mean employers have to tolerate employees who come to work drunk. In fact, being under the influence at work can be misconduct, disqualifying the employee from getting unemployment payments.

Simply put, alcoholism is not a defense to a finding of workplace misconduct.

Recent case: Johnnie Rollins, a cook, received repeated warnings not to come to work under the influence. When he went home during a shift, drank beer and returned to work, his supervisor had had enough. He fired Rollins.

Rollins applied for unemployment, but the referee found him guilty of misconduct, barring him from benefits. Rollins appealed, arguing that alcoholism was a defense and that as an alcoholic, he couldn’t help himself. Therefore he wasn’t guilty of intentional misconduct.

The appeals court refused to award benefits. It said coming to work intoxicated precludes benefits. (Rollins v. Bay HR and Florida Unemployment Appeals Commission, No. 4D07-293, Court of Appeals of Florida, 2007)

Final note: Remember that someone with an alcohol problem may be entitled to FMLA leave for treatment and may require an accommodation under the ADA. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to tolerate a drunken employee in the workplace. 

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