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Are employers required to rehabilitate employees?

Most employers know that dealing with employees who have alcohol issues can be a delicate process. On the one hand, there is a certain level of sensitivity to alcoholism because it is a known disease and a disability that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. On the other hand, an employee may not be ready to admit that they have a problem and may see treatment as a just patronism.

So what is an employer to do in these situations? On the one hand, to maintain the integrity of the workplace, employees who violate company policies must be disciplined or terminated. On the other hand, terminating an employee who is in need of help may trigger a significant downward spiral that may affect more than just employee's status with the employer. 

An employer (as well as an employee) would be prudent in speaking with an experienced employment law attorney to explore their rights and options. This is especially important if there is an expectation that an employee assistance program will give the employee a chance to rehabilitate themselves.

Setting clear expectations in this regard is important because an employer is not required to establish such a program or give employees referrals to them. Likewise, an employer is not obligated to allow an employee to enroll in a substance abuse assistance program in lieu of discipline. These may be potential sticking points that could lead to litigation if the proper expectation is not set.

The preceding is not legal advice. Questions specific to your situation should be directed to an experienced attorney

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