Alcohol in the Workplace – What if Your Employee Has an Alcohol Problem?

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Creative Commons / Chris Cotterman

Creative Commons / Chris Cotterman

Jonathan Blazek has a problem.

This isn’t to say he didn’t already have problems.  One was his drinking.

The other was getting caught drinking 21 ounces of whiskey during a shift as a snowplow driver.  That one got him terminated.

His new problem is that yesterday, October 9, a federal Court in Ohio tossed out his “alcohol discrimination” (as a disability) claim against his employer, the City of Lakewood.  The Lakewood Patch in Ohio reports that a federal judge granted the City’s Motion to Dismiss the case, finding that Mr. Blazek wasn’t terminated for his alcoholism, but for drinking on the job.

This was after a 23 year stint of employment which had brought him up to a $59,000 yearly salary.

Maybe you are not jaded like me.  Maybe you are surprised an employee would claim alcoholism is a disability.

But that’s just it – they do.

Because it is.  Just ask the United States EEOC.

Let this one serve as a reminder.  Alcoholism, like extreme allergies, depression, anxiety, and a list of other ailments that may surprise you, qualifies as a disability under the ADA.

While you can’t terminate your employee for being an alcoholic, you can terminate for drinking on the job.  Remember, it’s ability to perform the job functions that matters.

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