By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Accommodating an employee who is an alcoholic. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.
A Broward County employee was suspended without pay after she came to work under the influence. Did I mention that she was a judge who presided over the drug court, in charge of sentencing others for crimes committed while under the influence??
She appealed her unpaid suspension because she says her alcoholism is a disability and should have been accommodated. She may be a drunk judge, but she kind of knows the law.
A history of alcoholism is, in fact, a disability and not only can’t employers fire an employee because of his or her history of alcoholism, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it must reasonably accommodate her disability. It would be considered a reasonable accommodation under the law to allow an employee, where possible, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or to take time off for treatment if it wouldn’t be unduly burdensome for the employer.
And, if the policy of the employer is to provide paid time for disability, it must do that whether the disability is for cancer treatment or alcohol treatment.
That said, employers are free to discipline and even fire workers for violating work rules like being drunk on the job, or being judgmental of others while under the influence.