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Prohibiting the Three-Martini Lunch

Employer May Limit Alcohol Use During Work Hours A company can prohibit employees from drinking alcohol on their lunch hours or at any other time during work hours. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes alcoholism as a disability, it permits employers to prohibit alcohol consumption on the job and allows employers to hold employees with alcohol problems to the same standards of job performance and workplace behavior as those set for other employees. In addition to the performance and morale problems employee inebriation is likely to produce, there are potential legal issues involved in allowing employees to consume alcohol on the job. Companies are required by law to restrict the consumption of alcohol by employees who perform certain jobs, for example, such as driving trucks or buses. Department of Transportation regulations prohibit employees required to have commercial drivers' licenses from consuming alcohol during work hours and for up to four hours before going to work. Employers may also restrict employee consumption of alcohol if they drive company cars, since the employer can be held responsible for accidents employees may cause. MORE ON ADA Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer can't fire employees because of alcoholism or because he or she perceives them to be alcoholics. (While employees who are recovering alcoholics or substance abusers might be considered as having protected disabilities under ADA, the law specifically exempts active illegal drug use as a protected disability.) (42 U.S.C. Sects. 12101 to 12213; 29 CFR Sects. 1630.1 to 1630.16.) Employers can, however, discipline or discharge employees whose alcoholism prevents them from properly performing their job duties. While the ADA specifically recognizes alcoholism as a disability, it also allows employers to: • prohibit employees from being under the influence of alcohol while at work; and • hold employees with alcohol problems to the same job-performance standards and workplace behavior as other employees. In making disciplinary decisions, an employer can reduce the risk of disability discrimination by focusing on employees' job performance rather than on their real or perceived drinking problems. FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows employees to take leave to obtain treatment for serious health conditions, which can include treatment for drug or alcohol addiction if supplied or recommended by a health care provider. Under U.S. Department of Labor regulations, employees also can take FMLA leave to care for an immediate family member requiring substance abuse treatment, provided a health care provider certifies the need for such care (29 CFR Sects. 825.114(d), 835.116). (This guide is not intended to serve as legal advice. Contact an attorney if you need advice for an issue addressed in this guide.)

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