This question is a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface. Every employment situation is different, as is every workplace. Additionally, while there are some federal laws and guidelines that protect employees with substance use disorder (SUD), every state has its own laws and principles for dealing with this and other similar questions.1,5
Please note that this post should not be taken as legal advice. You may want to talk to a qualified legal professional about any employment situation you might be concerned with. To find alcohol rehab programs that work with businesses and other organizations within North Texas, contact Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to learn more.
American employees with contracts cannot be fired or given other sanctions simply for having alcohol use disorder (AUD) or for seeking treatment for it, due to prevailing interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).1,2,3,4
However, generally speaking, employers can sanction or terminate employees for other things related to AUD. You can almost certainly be fired, suspended, or given a warning for AUD-related behavior, including the following:1,2,3,4
Additionally, being an at-will employment state, employees without a contract in Texas can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Also, employers are usually under no obligation to follow internal guidelines on alcohol use. In practical terms, it may be an undue burden to prove that your employer fired you specifically for a drinking problem or because they found out you were seeking treatment.1,5
The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits employers from punishing or firing an employee solely because of an illness or medical condition. In recent years, AUD has been more widely accepted to be a disease rather than a moral failing. Thus, current prevailing interpretations of the ADA cover AUD.2,3
That said, there is nothing that keeps an employer from not hiring an employee with AUD, to begin with. Additionally, as discussed earlier, the protection does not extend to situations and behaviors that are caused by AUD.2,3
The employer may still fire the employee if they have not done these requisite actions. Once an employee has done these, the employer must make so-called “reasonable accommodations” for the employee, such as time off for treatment, schedule changes, or helping find or pay for treatment.2,3
Terminations and other sanctions could still take place if the treatment does not resolve or significantly improve performance issues. Additionally, behavior that puts others at risk or is particularly serious may also be subject to disciplinary action or termination.2,3
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees up to 12 weeks off without pay for professional AUD treatment, not counting the paid leaves to which an employee is already entitled.4
The FMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees, all of whom work within a 75-mile radius of the workplace. This means many small businesses are not compelled to comply with the FMLA.4
If an employer is required to comply with the FMLA, an employee must meet the following criteria for protection:4
As with the ADA, the FMLA does not cover conduct or performance-related disciplinary actions, even if the conduct and performance were related to the employee’s drinking.4
AUD afflicts millions of American workers and causes billions of dollars in losses to the economy each year, making it one of the most serious issues facing American workplaces today.1,6 If you feel that you, a colleague, or a subordinate need help with AUD, please seek professional help immediately. You can call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers at +1(214) 453-5663 to find AUD treatment programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that work with businesses to help employees achieve a full recovery.