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Do alcoholic employees have rights in the workplace?

As an employee, you have certain rights that you must understand and enforce, if necessary. Some of these issues get exceptionally complicated, especially when it comes to employees who struggle with appropriate alcohol consumption. Your employer may have certain obligations to you if you struggle with alcoholism, but you also face some additional dangers that other employees may never encounter.

Alcoholics are generally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but that does not mean that an alcoholic can behave poorly in the workplace without repercussions. Whereas an employer may have to make reasonable accommodations for alcoholics, such as if a person undergoes rehabilitation treatment, employers do not have to tolerate drinking in the workplace.

In general, this means that an employer must allow an employee who struggles with substance abuse to seek rehabilitation, and make reasonable accommodations around that time period. While an employer does not have to hold a position open indefinitely, they may hold it for an agreed-upon period of time, just as they might for any individual who chooses to take medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Should you choose to drink in the workplace, especially if it affects your performance, an employer may respond with discipline, or may even terminate your employment. In some cases, an employer may even discipline an employee for behavior that occurs outside of work, if that behavior actually affects workplace performance.

If your workplace is not properly accommodating your struggle with alcohol, be sure to speak with an experienced employees' rights attorney. Proper legal guidance allows you to fully understand the scope of your rights and how to protect them.

Source: Findlaw, "What Are an Employer's Obligations Toward Alcoholic Employees," accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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