Q & A – What if an employee tells me that he or she is addicted to drugs or alcohol?

MarijuanaQ. What if an employee tells me that he or she is addicted to drugs or alcohol?

A. The answer to this question depends on when the employee comes forward. If this comes up when the employer has already decided to terminate the employee for some misconduct or poor performance, the employee’s admission has no effect on that decision. If this comes up when the employer was about to discipline the employee, the discipline still occurs. Employers are not expected to tolerate misconduct or poor performance even where it stems from an addiction. If this comes up when the employee has no performance issues and the employer has observed no impairment at work, the employer should find out what the employee might need going forward (e.g., time off for treatment). Disclosing an addiction does not relieve the employee from complying with the employer’s drug and alcohol policy and employers do not have to tolerate violations.

The employee’s addiction may be an ADA disability, and FMLA leave should be used for time off for treatment, where applicable.