Thank you for your reply. There are two primary sets of laws which are immediately brought into play when discussing possible workplace protections for an alcoholic worker: (1) Americans with Disabilities Act, (2) Family Medical Leave Act. These federal laws, which might protect an alcoholic worker from being fired, can conflict with the so-called at-will doctrine that allows an employer to terminate an employee
for virtually any reason. Because alcoholism
can be considered a disease, an employer must consider the circumstances of the employee and any of the above mentioned laws that can preclude an at will termination depending on the situation.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that an employer give reasonable accommodation to an employee who can demonstrate that they are substantially limited in a major life activity. In the case of employment, if an employee can show that their excessive and uncontrollable drinking prevents them from conducting the tasks necessary to their employment, then they may be due accommodation so that they can rehabilitate from their condition and keep their job. The ADA considers granting an employee appropriate leave to go through alcohol rehabilitation a sufficient and reasonable accommodation, and does not require that an employer tolerate relapse or consistent refusal to obtain help when given the appropriate chance. If an employer offers appropriate accommodation to an alcoholic employee, and the problems with the employee's alcohol abuse and resulting performance persist, than an employer can rightfully terminate the employee.The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not permit an employer to terminate an employee for extended absences taken in order to obtain treatment for alcoholism. Although absence from work due to alcoholism is problematic to the employer, if an employee is attempting to access professional help in combating their disease, an employer cannot hold the absence against them. The ADA and FMLA provide this level of leniency in part to encourage individuals who are suffering from alcoholism to seek the treatment they need without worrying about being fired from work for doing so. In other words, you can request leave, for example, to go through counseling/alcohol rehabilitation, and be afforded protection under the law due to disability of your alcoholism. That may be a better approach for you than not being honest with your employer as to what is going on and them thinking that you are just slacking off and missing work. in that sense, your past helps you more then it hurts you. There is a major exception to these laws. Neither federal nor state law protects employees who abuse alcohol while at work, or whose alcohol abuse prevents them from performing any part of their job. If an employee abuses alcohol while on duty, or has some necessary license or authorization (such as your nursing license) revoked due to their drinking then an employer may terminate them without the accommodations required by law. So you need to be very careful that you're not drinking on the job or do anything that can cost you your license, because then the employer does not have to grant you any type of reasonable accommodation. If I can clarify anything further or you need additional information, please use the REPLY feature, I'll be happy to assist. Thank you.