Alcoholic Manager

Question:

When our CFO brought me one of our senior manager’s expense reports, I learned he drank heavily at lunch. I brought him in and let him know that we weren’t going to pay for his booze.

He argued, saying I should consider his drinks business development expenses. I told him I didn’t want him returning to the office with booze on his breath and said I was instructing the CFO not to reimburse any alcohol expenses.

Even though he no longer expenses his drinks, others in our company have seen him drinking at lunch as several managers take clients to the Petroleum Club for lunch. Is there an easy way to completely restrict his lunchtime drinking without creating a policy that bans alcohol for other managers who don’t have a problem?

Answer:

In 2014, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published an Informal Discussion Letter letting employers know that requiring employees who are or are perceived to be alcoholics to abstain from drinking alcohol on or off the job as a condition of continued employment likely violates the American with Disabilities Act and constitutes discrimination based on alcoholism.

While employers have a legitimate business interest in ensuring that employees are not impaired during work, they don’t have a legitimate business interest in regulating an employee’s conduct outside of work. Employers can, however, establish a drug and alcohol free workplace policy and prohibit employees from using, being impaired by or possessing alcohol in the workplace. If you want to allow other managers to occasionally drink at lunch, you need to write this exception into your policy.

Finally, does this manager work effectively and productively after lunch? If not, the ADA specifically allows employers to hold alcoholics to the same performance and conduct standards as other employees.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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