He is usually absent on Mondays and, if he comes in, he is bleary eyed and complaining about his hangover. Sometimes he is short tempered and he disappears for a long lunch every day, coming back smelling of alcohol. An alcoholic employee presents a special problem because, while he may be a valuable employee in many ways, you worry that his erratic behaviour will result in a significant problem for your company.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Do not confront your alcoholic employee unless you are working with a professional trained in addiction counselling. Your employee likely will deny he has a problem with alcohol and if you directly confront him or even fire him in a way that does not comply with accepted guidelines, you may be incurring significant legal liability.
Contact Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for advice on how to deal with an alcoholic employee. AA will be able to help you identify symptoms of alcoholism and can provide advice on how to handle instances when you detect on the job influence or after effects of alcohol consumption. The organisation maintains a close working association with professionals who specialise in the treatment of alcoholism and, if appropriate, AA can also conduct an intervention.
Remember your employee has skills and experience that qualify her for the job even though she has a physical inability to metabolise alcohol. Once she stops drinking she will probably be a model employee, so you may wish to fully support her rehabilitation.
Carefully document absences, late arrivals, long lunch hours, poor performance, and any instances of being under the influence of alcohol while at work. It is extremely important that you have this information organised and ready to present to the employee as well as health and addiction care personnel, or in the worst case, legal authorities. Documentation is very important in protecting you against employee claims of abuse or lawsuits because many alcoholics are in deep denial and will defend themselves against all logic.
Familiarise yourself with provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that deal with alcoholism in the workplace. Under the ADA, you may not discriminate against employees with disabilities and alcoholism may fall under the category of disability. FMLA specifies how much time an employer must provide an employee to seek rehabilitation. The Human Resource department or company attorney should be thoroughly familiar with these and other state provisions regarding this issue.
Tips and warnings
- Respect your employee's anonymity after she has stopped drinking. Do not reveal to others, even another alcoholic, that she is a recovering alcoholic. Above all, do not treat her like a ticking alcoholic time bomb. It is not necessary to keep her away from events where alcohol is served, but it is also not polite to tease her about drinking a soft drink.
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