HR Health & Safety FAQ

Is alcoholism a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean an employer has to put up with an employee’s drinking. The disease of alcoholism meets the definition of a disability, which means that an employer may not make job decisions based on the fact that an employee is an alcoholic, attends AA meetings, or takes medication to curb the urge to drink. However, an employer may prohibit drinking at work and may generally hold all employees to the same standards of performance and conduct. An employee who can’t meet those standards because of drinking may be disciplined and ultimately terminated, even if the employee is an alcoholic. For more information on workplace drug and alcohol rules, see Nolo’s article Handling Employee Alcohol and Drug Use. For more information on the ADA and disabilities, see Nolo’s article Reasonable Accommodations for People With Disabilities: The ADA.

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