Excessive drinking and alcoholism can have serious personal and professional ramifications. But can an employee be fired merely for drinking too much? The answer tends to depend on the job and the circumstances regarding the employee’s use of alcohol.
Some scenarios in which an employee may be terminated due to alcohol use include:
- If the employee works for a business that sells alcohol, such as a restaurant or winery
- If an individual works in a field in which any alcohol in one’s system could pose a risk to others, such as health care workers, factory machinists, or pilots and comes to work with alcohol in their system
- If a person’s alcohol use could have a negative psychological impact on those in their care, such as teachers or nursing home aides
- If an employee’s consumption of alcohol violates internal policies against the use of alcohol at work
Employers have an interest in protecting their employees, including from dangerous conditions caused by workers who are intoxicated on the job. On the other hand, firing an employee who consumes alcohol on their own time without any impact on their performance at work could be considered wrongful termination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers some protections to employees who suffer from alcoholism, such as protecting workers seeking treatment from discrimination or termination. However, because alcoholism is classified as a disease rather than a disability, the protections afforded to employees under the ADA are limited.
If you’ve been terminated because of alcoholism or any addiction-related reason, , consulting with an experienced employment attorney can be a valuable first step. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your rights and protections under the law as discuss your options with you.