You may have seen news segments about companies that allow—even encourage— employees to drink at work. According to a 2012 article on ABCnews.go.com, ad agencies do, or at least they did at that time. One firm’s employee said that it “incentivizes and enthuses” employees, and another said it helps the creative process. Tech companies were mentioned as allowing drinking, too, especially after a “win.” The article even quoted a study that found a little alcohol enhances the creative process.To allow drinking at work brings up a host of issues. Take employees in recovery, for example. These people are often counseled on how to handle the question “Why don’t you drink?” or the taunt, “C’mon, have just one with us” in social situations, but they shouldn’t be placed in this situation at work. Also, what if someone gets in an accident on the way home? Isn’t the company wholly or partially at fault, like a bar is? (The situation is different for people in dangerous jobs; there are strict workplace rules about drinking on the job.)
In most jobs, it’s not easy trying to perform when suffering from alcohol use disorder (although people who are on the road a lot, or executives who aren’t accountable can get away with it easier, it seems). When employees are found to have a problem, however, it’s often strongly suggested that they attend rehab with the help of an Employee Assistance Program. Drinking while at work is such a touchy subject that the government includes the rules in their handbook for supervisors: Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors. Here is a succinct explanation of guidelines and laws around drinking at work:
“Federal legal protections for alcoholics in the workplace are designed to encourage them to seek help without jeopardizing their employment. However, those protections do not extend to alcoholic behavior in the workplace.
Two federal laws impact employment decisions related to alcohol use, abuse and alcoholism. The first, the Americans With Disabilities Act, requires employers to grant accommodation to disabled employees; it defines disabilities as conditions or disorders that substantially limit a major life activity. If your employee can prove that alcoholism prevents him or her from performing the job properly, you may be required to grant an accommodation for the purpose of rehabilitation. The second law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, prohibits employers from discharging employees who take extended absences to treat their alcoholism.
Accommodating alcoholic employees means giving them time to seek treatment for their condition. It does not mean reducing an alcoholic’s workload or otherwise changing their terms and conditions of employment. It also does not mean forgiving misconduct induced by alcohol or alcoholism. If, after receiving rehabilitation treatment, the employee continues to underperform, the law’s protections no longer apply. Likewise, the recidivist alcoholic is not entitled to FMLA-protected leave for subsequent breaches. The employer may reasonably expect that after a leave of absence for rehabilitation, more will not be required. In addition, no accommodation is required for the employee who denies having a problem.”
According to a headline in the Washington Post, “Drugs in the workplace are at their highest level in a decade.” Quest Diagnostics reports that opioids in the bloodstream and urine are down, but the incidence of other drugs is up. (And that’s only related to people who went for testing!) Cocaine and methamphetamine use is up in certain states, as well as marijuana in those states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Unfortunately, in three states, pot use is up in safety-sensitive jobs, which include truck driving, rail, and those in nuclear power plants, to name three industries. Federal contractors and recipients of federal grants, and “safety- and security sensitive industries” are legally required to have a drug-free workplace policy as under The Drug-free Workplace Act of 1988, but other industries are not. To protect workers’ rights, four acts lay out the limits on steps an employer can take in investigating and setting consequences for employee drug use. SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) advises companies to seek legal representation when deciding their policy on drug testing to avoid being sued for invasion of privacy, for example.
Check Out These Companies
Here are four companies that hire people in recovery (which often means they’ve served time, too): Venturetech Drilling Technologies in West Knoxville, Texas, Envirosafe Stripping Inc. in Carnegie, PA., Creative Matters in Los Angeles, and Dave’s Killer Bread in Milwaukie, Ore. There are also federal and state programs that help formerly incarcerated people get jobs. For example, the U.S. Forest Service has a program that links non-profit organizations that employ these people with companies that need reclaimed lumber. For more information on our Drug and Alcohol rehab programs please contact us at (866) 569-9391.