Can My Employer Fire Me For Being An Alcoholic Or Drug Addict?
Alcoholism and drug addiction are medically recognized diseases that affect millions of Americans, and under both California and federal law, they are considered disabilities. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to permit affected employees to seek treatment and are prohibited from discriminating against employees because of alcoholism or drug addiction.
While employers are free to terminate and can refuse to hire anyone whose alcohol or drug use impairs their ability to perform the duties of their job, employers cannot fire or take other negative employment actions against an employee because of their status as an alcoholic or drug addict. California and federal laws recognize alcoholism, and to a lesser extent, drug addiction, as a disability and many employers are required to to provide reasonable accommodations – usually time off to seek treatment – to employees who seek help.
Leave Under California Law for Employees to Seek Treatment
California law provides stronger protections to employees who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction than the federal law does. California employers who employ more than 25 people are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who wish to participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. Typically, this means that the employer must allow the employee to take leave or time off to participate in the program. The accommodation must be provided unless it would cause an undue hardship for the employer. Cal. Labor Code § 1025.
Employers must also make reasonable efforts to preserve the employee’s privacy concerning his or her participation in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. Cal. Labor Code § 1026.
While employers are not required to provide paid time off for employees to seek treatment, employees may use any paid sick leave time they have accumulated to attend a rehab program. Cal. Labor Code § 1027.
CFRA/FMLA Leave for Drug and Alcohol Treatment
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide up to 12 weeks of leave for treatment of the employee’s own serious health condition, which may include leave for treatment of drug addiction or alcoholism. These laws require that the employee be returned to a same or similar position after returning to work.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The most important federal law that applies to drug addiction and alcoholism in the workplace is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal courts and regulations recognize alcoholism and drug addiction as disabilities when they substantially limit one or more major life activities. However, the ADA does not apply to employees who are currently engaged in the use of illegal drugs.
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A person with a drug addiction can be considered disabled under the ADA if he or she has completed or is participating in a supervised drug rehabilitation program and is no longer using illegal drugs.
The ADA, like California law, requires employers to engage in an interactive process with disabled employees, including employees suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction and to extend reasonable accommodations, typically treatment.
Contact our Orange County Law Office
The Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams represents employees in a variety of employment matters including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, wage & hour, and whistleblower retaliation claims. If you think you have a claim, contact our office today by calling 949-679-9909 or use the contact form below and we will promptly respond.