Firing an employee for showing up to work drunk doesn’t violate the FMLA, you guys

Much in the same way that you don’t need to accommodate an employee who shows up drunk on Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

This is the stuff they don’t teach you in your PHR course curriculum, amirite?

More after the jump…

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So, this guy was working for brokerage proactice in Texas and, according to the court’s opinion, he had a problem with alcohol. He took leave from work to treat, returned, relapsed, repeated.

Sounds like a boozy shampoo bottle.

Anyway, suffice it to say that the employee’s battles with alcohol were tough. And, in the Summer of 2011, the employee signed a contract with his employer in which, among other things, he agreed not to drink alcoholic beverages of any kind during work and non-work hours, attend treatment-related meetings, and follow the recommendations of his program counselors. If he messed up once, he’d be fired.

Well, the following year, yeah, you read the lede: he showed up to work in a “noticeably intoxicated state.” And he was fired.

So, where does the FMLA come in?

Welp, allegedly, the employee requested FMLA in the same conversation in which the company told him he would be fired.

Under the FMLA, an employer cannot fire an employee for seeking to take leave under the Act. The employee alleged that he was fired because he requested leave. The employer responded, duh! with legitimate nondiscriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons for termination, which included, consuming alcohol in violation of company policy.

But, here’s the best part (unless you’re the plaintiff’s lawyer, which case it was probably a total train wreck). According to the court’s opinion, at his deposition, the plaintiff totally submarined his own case:

Sheridan was asked whether he believed that the decision to terminate him had “anything to do with [his] Family Medical Leave.” Not only did Sheridan respond with an unequivocal “no,” in what appears to be an eager attempt to expose AJG’s business priorities, he stated that it was his belief that “it [the termination decision] had to do with money.” This admission negates any claim that could be made that AJG treated Sheridan less favorably than another employee who had not requested FMLA leave, or that the decision to terminate him was made because he took leave.

While treatment for substance abuse may be covered under both the FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act, you don’t have to accommodate an employee’s intoxication at work. Otherwise, you expose that employee and others to risk of injury or death.

Boy, this really ended dark, didn’t it?

Happy holidays!

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