Alcoholism at work

Oct 14 2008 by Derek Torres Print This Article

I came across an interesting article this morning about alcoholics in the workplace; frankly, it made me re-think the issue and even change my point of view.

To be honest, my initial reaction was just to fire someone with an alcohol problem in the interest of workplace harmony and employees. But Adam Fuge's comments made me rethink the question: after all, don't employers need to find a balance between supporting an employee (including their personal problems that affect their performance in the workplace) and the overall health of the company?

Mr. Fuge also brings up important legal questions as to whether or not alcoholism or related conduct due to the illness constitutes a legitimate reason to sack an employee in the UK (where the story was written).

Obviously, in at-will employment areas - such as the United States - the answer is a resounding yes; there would be no impediment to firing. In the UK, however, such action could put the company in breach of contract.

On the other hand, failing to take action against such concerns could also land a company in hot water Ė and a lawsuit- brought my employees that feel ill-protected.

At the end of the day, I think the question that must be addressed is whether or not the employee's work performance and social courtesies are compromised in any way. If this is not the case, the company should work with the employee to keep him or her in line with job expectations. If not, perhaps it's time to solicit advice from counsel and look at protecting all parties' best interests.