I was terminated for not calling into work an excessive number of times. I’m not sure of the exact number, but it was more than 10. The reason I was not calling in was that I was passed out from drinking too much. I did take time off to seek treatment. I returned to work on a limited schedule only to receive a notice that I was being terminated. Should I have been allowed to return to work after completing treatment or had I been given too many chances?

Yeah, it’s too late.

The Americans with Disabilities Act considers addiction–including alcoholism–a disability. But, you’re only protected if you act before your job is in jeopardy.

If your company has more than 15 employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act kicks in. They can’t punish you for seeking treatment for your alcoholism. But, they only have to make a reasonable accommodation.

That “reasonableness” varies greatly from job to job and company to company and situation to situation. Is it reasonable to have you leave early every Tuesday to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? In most jobs the answer to that is yes.

Is it reasonable for you to take a six month leave of absence to go into inpatient treatment? In some jobs, that’s reasonable. In others, it’s absolutely not.

But, since you didn’t call in, you violated your company’s no-call-no-show policy. (Every company should have such a policy!) It doesn’t really matter. You weren’t terminated because of your disability (alcoholism). You were terminated because of multiple no-call-no-shows. If you missed more than 10 days because of this, your company falls into the extremely generous category.

Now, a caveat. Because they didn’t terminate you before you received treatment and allowed you to come back at all, you may be able to argue that you were fired for taking the leave rather than the no-call-no-shows. I think it’s a long stretch, but it is possible.

I’m super glad you got help! Overcoming addiction is super hard and you should be proud of yourself for completing treatment.

Keep it up and good luck on the job search.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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3 thoughts on “When You’re Too Drunk to Work

  1. Yes, the timing of the termination may give this employee the opportunity to, at least, file — or threaten to file — an ADA claim. While it’s unlikely that the company would take him/her back, they might be willing to change the involuntary termination to a voluntary resignation, which may assist the employee in finding a new job. On the other hand, with an involuntary termination, s/he might qualify for unemployment benefits, which might be more important at this point in time.

  2. This is sad. A person drinks to hide tough personal trauma. Being fired doesn’t help, but the company needs to have the work done too…so are you human or are you HR? I vote for HR this time 🙁

    1. That’s not a fair dichotomy. Keep in mind, the especially with No Shows, the burden of the OP’s work winds up either falling on their coworkers, or things get left undone. Those things may be minor, but they quite likely are not. So this is not “business vs humanity”.

      I do feel bad for the OP, but it’s hard for me to see how they have a claim.

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