HR Home Forums Community What is the employers obligation for employees drinking on the job?

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  • Conner Lantz
    Keymaster
    Post count: 4836

    Good afternoon Glenn, hope you and your family are doing well.
    Please confirm what the employer can do:
    To what extent does the employer need to accommodate:
    A worker caught drinking on the job.
    The company has a Drug & Alcohol policy stating “is committed to assisting …rehabilitation” also, “will make reasonable efforts to accommodate” also, “any violation to the policy…will result in …disciplinary action up to and including termination”.
    Is the employer obligated to continue paying wages if the worker is in rehab?
    Can the employer put an employee on a leave of absence?
    Does the employer have to pay for the worker to go to a rehabilitation program?
    Not sure what questions to ask – Looking for direction.
    Thank you.
    Mirella Bennati

    Conner Lantz
    Keymaster
    Post count: 4836

    Wow Wow Wow. There are a million questions here. And if you’re dealing directly with a disciplinary situation, you need to talk to a lawyer. Here are some general principles you can use to sort things out and order your thoughts:

    1. How do you KNOW he was drinking on the job? Did you catch him in the act? Did he fail an alcohol test. You need to be sure the guy was impaired before u do anything.
    2. When and if you can establish that he was, in fact, impaired, how you proceed depends on whether the employee is a casual drinker or has an alcohol-related problem or addiction.
    3. If he’s just a casual user, you can go ahead and discipline him for violating your Drug/Alcohol Policies, Safety Policies, etc.–assuming, of course, you actually have such policies and they’re clearly written. Degree of discipline will depend on lots of factors like whether his job is safety-sensitive, whether he has a history of discipline, the actual harm he caused by being drunk (did somebody get hurt or did property get damaged), his truthfulness and willingness to accept responsibility, etc. You also have to strictly follow your progressive discipline procedures.
    4. If he has an alcohol dependency, he’s considered to be “disabled” under human rights laws and you must accommodate him to the point of undue hardship. Figuring out the right accommodations is a tricky process in which you both must engage. Undue hardship is reached when you have to endanger safety. In other words, accommodation doesn’t require you to allow employees to work while impaired, especially if they’re safety sensitive. But time off and all that needs to be worked out.
    5. It gets even trickier if he has to go into rehab. From your question, I’m assuming that you don’t have a company policy addressing this, including who has to pay for rehab. If you do, just follow the policy. You can probably require the guy to enter into a Last Chance Agreement providing for reinstatement upon completing rehab and requiring him to undergo testing–perhaps random testing if he’s safety sensitive–during rehab and for a limited time after he’s reinstated.

    Bottom Line: These are monster issues and you need to talk to a lawyer, explain all the facts and then figure out a strategy. Good luck.

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