Page 1

Managing Alcoholic Employees Alcoholism is widespread in all areas of society, including the workplace. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 17.6 million Americans suffer from alcoholism. That comes to about 1 in 12 adults, which means it’s a good chance at least one person in your office is an alcoholic. Rather than firing an employee at the first sign of alcohol abuse, there are better ways, within the law, to manage an alcoholic employee and help them return to being a productive team member.

Alcoholism is a disability According to the American Disabilities Act (ADA), alcoholism is a disability. That means an employer can’t fire someone simply for being an alcoholic—they need to make reasonable accommodations, just like for any employee with a disability. Alcoholics aren’t off the hook, though, if they show up late for work or show up drunk. They can be held to the same work standards as all employees, and if they fail to live up to those standards it’s legally acceptable to terminate them.

Employees are entitled to seek treatment without risk of termination According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, an employee who comes forward about their alcoholism can take a leave of absence to enter rehab. This is their protected right to seek out treatment for their disability. Once they’ve completed their rehabilitation, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules. Remember, they are still obligated to complete all the tasks required of any employees or risk lawful termination.

Manage an alcoholic employee with an RWA The best way to manage an alcoholic employee is to come up with a Return to Work Agreement (RWA). That way you can both sit down at a table and come up with a plan for them to continue their employment that you’re both happy with. You might include in an RWA would be that the employee attend AA meetings regularly, or that if they relapse they’ll risk termination. If they’re unable to return to full functionality immediately, the RWA can set goals to help them reach the necessary level.


In cases where former employees sued because they claimed they were unfairly terminated over their alcoholism, an RWA has saved the company from being found liable. An RWA shows that an employer took all the necessary steps to accommodate and employee’s alcoholism, but that they were also held to the same standards as other employees. Each case of alcoholism in your workplace will be different, and each RWA should reflect that. It’s not a good idea to have a one-solution-fits-all mentality, especially if you want to avoid a possible lawsuit. WeComply offers compliance training specific to manage alcoholism in the workplace, as well as people who have other disabilities. The best approach is to be prepared when situations arrive, so that you know the law and know how you can work within it to resolve and conflicts. Sign up for a WeComply Americans with Disabilities Act training course today, and learn how you’re business can act within the law to accommodate your hard-working employees with disabilities.

Photo Credit: tomcorsonknowles.com, balkaninside.com

Managing Alcoholic Employees  

Rather than firing an employee at the first sign of alcohol abuse, there are better ways, within the law, to manage an alcoholic employee an...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you