Addiction, Law and Work Archives

Is Drug Addiction a Legally Recognized Disability? Understanding Addiction, the Law and the Workplace

Published on August 2nd, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“ Sometimes you can only find Heaven
by slowly backing away from Hell.”

– Carrie Fisher

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: I can recall many case histories of clients, and their family members, who have dealt with the reality of addiction to substances, both legal and illegal. I am not an addiction therapist, that is for sure, but I do receive many questions all the time regarding how to best deal with legal issues related to addiction and the workplace. Here are a few issues that I remember having been consulted on:

–Can an employer refuse to hire a person because he or she is a recovering addict, free of use for years?
–Can an employee be terminated for using illicit drugs on his or her days off?
–Is addiction a legally recognized disability under the law?
–Is alcohol addiction treated the same way as drug addiction?
–Is addiction to prescription drugs treated the same way as addiction to illegal drugs?
–If an employee confides with a company Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) that he or she is having problems with drugs, must the EAP staff maintain strict confidentiality?
–Is misconduct to be excused because it took place while the employee was under the influence of drugs?
–Can an employee be terminated for being a recovering addict?
–If you are experiencing an addiction, is it wise to tell your employer?

Because substance abuse and addiction have recently reached epidemic levels, we have undertaken to address these and related issues as, they arise in the workplace, one by one, step by step, day by day, to the eventual goal of providing our blog visitors with a sound platform for understanding addiction, the law, and the workplace.

This newsletter is one installment in a series on “Addiction, the Law and the Workplace.”

LESSON TO LEARN: We all have our demons, our challenges and our personal mountains to climb. Few of us are without some pains that sometimes scream out to us for some sort of relief. These matters, and the many ways in which they manifest themselves, are necessarily recognized and addressed in the workplace, and in “the law of the workplace,” as well.

Actually, the law is rather forgiving on this subject, consistent with the notion of redemption. Essentially, the law says “If you are helping yourself, we will help you do so, but if you are not helping yourself, you are on your own.” In my view, our Congressmen and Congresswomen have been quite wise in this respect.

[Incidentally, it should be pointed out that addiction to alcohol is treated somewhat differently by the law than is addiction to illegal substances, reflecting the fact that alcohol is a legally acquired addictive substance, in contrast to many other addictive substances. It should also be pointed out that there are some differences between the way the law treats addiction to legally prescribed medications and the way it treats so-called “illicit” ones.]

By our blog efforts we try to assist you, and those you care for, and those care for you, in this context.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Is drug addiction a legally recognized – and legally protected – disability? If so, why, when and how? Here are ten (10) pointers that may be helpful to keep in mind, whether you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction, or may do so in the future:
Read the rest of this blog post »

Self-Help Action Plan 1: “Totally Frazzled from Work? Here’s What You Can Do”

Published on December 9th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

New!!

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ – Self-Help Action Plan 1

“Totally Frazzled from Work?
Here’s What You Can Do”

A Plan for Addressing Extreme Exhaustion
and Possible Need for Time Off

© 2015 Alan L. Sklover


Employees often report that their job duties – and the way they are being treated at work – have been made them feel exhausted, drained, frustrated, bullied, confused and near debilitated. They report feeling hopeless, anxious, depressed, and unable to work, sleep, eat or think straight. If this describes you, you probably need to do something about it. It is for people in this situation that we have prepared this Self-Help Plan of Action 1, entitled “Totally Frazzled from Work? Here’s What You Can Do.”


Read the rest of this blog post »

“Not Feeling Well Enough to Work? – 13 Workplace Options (Part 2 of 2)”

Published on February 28th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

–       Mark Twain     

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Jana, 34, was an experienced graphic artist employed by a large website development company. For five years, she was a star performer, and over time rose to a Senior Graphic Artist position. The workload had grown quite considerably in recent years, due to her employer’s trying to get more and more work done with fewer and fewer employees. Still, Jana was the kind of person who exercised seven days a week, and always had the energy to do everything she wanted, always with a bright smile and a cheery personality.  

Lately, though, Jana didn’t feel quite right, and seemed increasingly unable to do her work. She experienced frequent exhaustion and problems concentrating. She couldn’t figure it out. “Could this be something that comes with your mid-30’s?” she asked herself, but it was surely more than that. Little by little, all sorts of things began to bother her: fatigue, fevers, hair loss, joint pain, sensitivity to light, and even mouth sores. They came and went. After seeing four different doctors, all of whom performed blood tests, none of whom could diagnose her problem, she was near the end of her rope. Finally, a rheumatologist diagnosed her with systemic lupus erythematosus, or “lupus” for short. 

Jana learned that lupus is an autoimmune illness affecting women more than men by a ratio of 7 to 1. Actually, it is a collection of autoimmune illnesses, in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive, and attacks normal, healthy tissues. Treatment consists primarily of immune-suppressive medications, primarily corticosteroids, although new drugs have recently come to market.

Jana had good days and bad days, but more and more they were bad. Unfortunately, her bad days affected her work performance so much that she received an annual performance review of “Does Not Meet Expectations,” and she was put on “Final Warning.” 

Though reluctant to share her problem with those at work, Jana spoke with her Human Resources Director, who was sympathetic, but clear in her message: there was little she could do. She said, “The work has to be done; if you can’t do the work, someone else has to.” With time not on her side, Jana consulted us to review her work options.

LESSON TO LEARN: It seems to be more and more common: employees all ages are having difficulty performing their work due to one or more illnesses, medical or otherwise. Some attribute this phenomenon to the increasing stress so many employees are experiencing at work, which is affecting their health. Some say it is the increasing workload, increasing hours demanded, and fewer and fewer sick days, vacation days and holidays. Some suggest that it is attributable to the many chemicals in our food, water and environment.

Whatever the cause is, our office is seeing more and more cases of employees feeling ill, many experiencing stress-related illnesses, and seeking alternative ways of coping and recuperating. While each person’s facts and circumstances are different, and because the options available to people in this situation can be confusing, people seek clarity. For many people, just knowing the available options, in and of itself, seems to reduce stress.   

While figuring out exactly which options are available to you, and which you should pursue, and how they are related to each other can be as frustrating, “If you need to know, you need to know.”   

HERE ARE 13 AVAILABLE OPTIONS: Here are thirteen different options available to those who are having a hard time doing their work due to illness or disability. Regardless of the options you are considering, your first step always needs to be to find out what your employer’s “illness-related” policies, plans and practices are, which in larger companies generally means contacting your Human Resources representative. Don’t be too surprised if your Human Resources representative is confused about the various options available to you, and how choosing one may affect the other, because the options available to you are multiple, often interrelated, and confusing to them, as well. 

Read the rest of this blog post »

“Not Feeling Well Enough to Work? – 13 Workplace Options (Part 1 of 2)”

Published on February 18th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

–       Mark Twain

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Jana, 34, was an experienced graphic artist employed by a large website development company. For five years, she was a star performer, and over time rose to a Senior Graphic Artist position. The workload had grown quite considerably in recent years, due to her employer’s trying to get more and more work done with fewer and fewer employees. Still, Jana was the kind of person who exercised seven days a week, and always had the energy to do everything she wanted, always with a bright smile and a cheery personality.  

Lately, though, Jana didn’t feel quite right, and seemed increasingly unable to do her work. She experienced frequent exhaustion and problems concentrating. She couldn’t figure it out. “Could this be something that comes with your mid-30’s?” she asked herself, but it was surely more than that. Little by little, all sorts of things began to bother her: fatigue, fevers, hair loss, joint pain, sensitivity to light, and even mouth sores. They came and went. After seeing four different doctors, all of whom performed blood tests, none of whom could diagnose her problem, she was near the end of her rope. Finally, a rheumatologist diagnosed her with systemic lupus erythematosus, or “lupus” for short. 

Jana learned that lupus is an autoimmune illness affecting women more than men by a ratio of 7 to 1. Actually, it is a collection of autoimmune illnesses, in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive, and attacks normal, healthy tissues. Treatment consists primarily of immune-suppressive medications, primarily corticosteroids, although new drugs have recently come to market. 

Jana had good days and bad days, but more and more they were bad. Unfortunately, her bad days affected her work performance so much that she received an annual performance review of “Does Not Meet Expectations,” and she was put on “Final Warning.” 

Though reluctant to share her problem with those at work, Jana spoke with her Human Resources Director, who was sympathetic, but clear in her message: there was little she could do. She said, “The work has to be done; if you can’t do the work, someone else has to.” With time not on her side, Jana consulted us to review her work options. 

LESSON TO LEARN: It seems to be more and more common: employees of all ages have difficulty performing their work due to one or more illnesses, medical or otherwise. Some attribute this phenomenon to the increasing stress so many employees are experiencing at work, which is affecting their health. Some say it is the increasing workload, increasing hours demanded, and fewer and fewer sick days, vacation days and holidays. Some suggest that it is attributable to the many chemicals in our food, water and environment. 

Whatever the cause is, our office is seeing more and more cases of employees feeling ill, many with experiencing stress-related illnesses, and seeking alternative ways of coping and recuperating. While each person’s facts and circumstances are different, and because the options available to people in this situation can be confusing, people seek clarity. For many people, just knowing the available options, in and of itself, seems to reduce stress.   

While figuring out exactly which options are available to you, and which you should pursue, and how they are related to each other can be as frustrating, “If you need to know, you need to know.”   

HERE ARE 13 AVAILABLE OPTIONS: Here are thirteen different options available to those who are having a hard time doing their work due to illness or disability. Regardless of the options you are considering, your first step always needs to be to find out what your employer’s “illness-related” policies, plans and practices are, which in larger companies generally means contacting your Human Resources representative. Don’t be too surprised if your Human Resources representative is confused, too, because the options available to you are often interrelated, and confusing to them, as well.   Read the rest of this blog post »

“Marijuana Legalization: Does it bring new issues into the Workplace?”

Published on January 7th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I read today that “recreational” use of marijuana became legal in Colorado on January 1st. I work in Colorado in the education industry, so my question is how will this law affect drug tests required by such community workers where sobriety is of utmost importance in keeping people safe?

Could it be that they are lowering the testing parameters to check if someone is sober at the time of his test? With urine tests, alcohol does not remain in the system beyond 24 hours or so. But with marijuana, as I understand it, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) stays much longer.

Could you please clarify.

A Loyal Subscriber
Fountain Valley, Colorado 

Answer: Dear Loyal Subscriber: Your question highlights an interesting issue that is sure to arise in the workplace. Here’s my best answer – and prediction:    

1. Whenever our society grants a degree of greater freedom, our society must at the same time consider the potential consequences of that greater freedom. Most of us believe that freedom is a good, precious and valuable part of life. Freedom to do something should never – unless necessary – be restricted. Then again, most of us believe that it is also a good thing to have security – that is, “freedom” from fear, harm, abuse and injury. Whenever society liberalizes any rule, restriction or regulation of behavior, that is, permits a wider freedom, it must at the same time conserve what is also important to us all: our safety and security.

2. The legalization of recreational marijuana use is a kind of greater freedom. There are many good reasons why people should be entitled to use marijuana “recreationally,” that is for the fun of it. At the same time, there seems to be more and more evidence that marijuana is also extremely useful and effective in the treatment of certain illnesses. Accounts I have read about and seen on television of the tremendous comfort and assistance marijuana can give to so many people who are ill have been just amazing. And, too, legalizing recreational use of marijuana also presents the opportunity for new jobs in a new industry, new sources of taxes for local and state governments, and the diversion of monies away from organized criminal groups. For all these reasons, and others, too, legalization of recreational marijuana consumption seems a wise step.

3. However, marijuana stays in the blood for several days, and no one wants their airline pilot, their kid’s bus driver, their mother’s eye surgeon, their home electrician or the factory worker who puts together their father’s heart pacemaker to be even “a little high” on the job. Even those who are ardent advocates of the legal consumption of marijuana are not in favor of the person who flies their airplane, or performs their mother’s eye surgery, or the person who drives their kids’ school bus on the interstate highway, to be doing those things a mere eight hours after “toking up on some truly killer weed.”

Airline pilots may be both pot-smokers and employees. Bus drivers may be both pot-smokers and employees. Likewise for eye surgeons and those who put together heart pacemakers: they are also employees, and may also enjoy their daily “bong hits.”

Hard to explain your last departure? Use our 50 Good Reasons to Explain Your Last Job Departure. Original, creative and so very useful! “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

4. As a general rule, employers are also “free” to put in place rules and policies to protect their businesses from harm, their employees from harm, and their customers from harm; in fact, they are “not free” to fail to do so, but can be  held accountable for the mistakes of employees who are even “a little bit high.” Let’s imagine, for a moment, a restaurant chef had a few friends over on Sunday evening to taste some unbelievable marijuana brownies she baked that afternoon. Let’s imagine that the next day, she was in her restaurant’s kitchen, and forgot for a few minutes to turn down the heat under a pot of boiling oil she was preparing for the fried clams on the menu. The result: two cooks and one waiter were terribly scalded – and permanently scarred – with boiling oil.

In most states, employees can do whatever they wish on their days off, but employers are free to fire them if those “days-off activities” affect the workplace. Such “days-off activities” that can get an employee fired include (a) dating a subordinate from work, (b) getting arrested and convicted of a crime, (c) even smoking cigarettes, because smokers are known to be absent more and incur greater healthcare costs. Thus, we are already permitting employee “freedoms” to be limited by employers if those “freedoms” might reasonably be expected to affect the workplace.

Sometimes, things seem complicated and confusing. For those who need individual attention and assistance, Mr. Sklover is available for telephone consultations on workplace problems and opportunities lasting 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 2 hours. If you would like to set up a consultation, just [click here.]

5. Every employee is entitled – by law – to a safe workplace, and to be “free” from foreseeable on-the-job injury; that applies to customers, and the general public, too. Every employee is entitled to be “free” from such terrible pain and lifelong scarring as the restaurant workers suffered in the above example. In fact, the law requires it: every employer must take “reasonable precautions” to make sure they are all safe from “foreseeable harm.” There is simply no question about it: those are the types of injuries and issues that will be seen, and whoever is “negligent” in any way will be held accountable. The same thing holds true for the employers’ customers: they, too, are entitled to be “free” from potential injury at the restaurant, on the airline, and in the hospital.  

Imagine if your daughter was brought to an emergency room, and given 30 milligrams of a drug instead of the 3.0 milligrams prescribed? Would you be upset if the nurse who made the mistake had never been tested for marijuana use?

Everyone who drives a car is also entitled to be “free” from the “ buzzed highway truck driver,” as is everyone who uses a tea kettle with a poorly welded handle; thus, all employers will be likely to be deemed “free” to require reasonable tests to identify marijuana in the bloodstream, and perhaps not “free” to fail to do so. 

6. So what do we, as a society, do? Either (a) permit airline pilots, truck drivers, chemistry teachers, cops and all others to be “a little high,” or (b) permit employers to test more employees on a frequent basis, to prevent harm before it happens. This week in New York City, a federal judge approved a City requirement that every police officer who fires a gun on duty to be immediately given a breathalyzer test to determine if he or she was drinking on the job. I think you will see this sort of thing, and regarding marijuana in the blood, random blood and urine testing, as well.

While, sadly, it may take some needless tragedies before the public accepts such stricter employer practices, I think that they are all inevitable – the tragedies, the lawsuits, the public outcry, and the legal “freedom” of employers to protect their employees, their customers and the public by preemptive, frequent and random blood or urine testing, or other means of identifying marijuana in the blood.  

Been accused of misconduct at work? You may be wise to present your best defenses in writing to your employer BEFORE your employer reaches its own conclusions. We offer 10 different Model Letters Responding to Various Allegations of Misconduct at Work. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

7. Will employees found with marijuana in their blood or urine be given second chances, severance if terminated, the right to unemployment benefits if fired for being “a little high” on the job, or even confidentiality about their reason for termination? Only time will tell. While I foresee the public, our legislatures, insurance companies and juries permitting – and perhaps requiring –  employers to test their employees for marijuana in their blood or urine, and thus being “a little high” on the job, I am not too confident that “secondary effects” of marijuana use  on those who are “caught” engaging in this activity – even on days off.  

Some people are reportedly moving to Colorado because of the new marijuana law passed there, while others are reportedly moving out of Colorado to other states as a result. Everyone is “free” to do either.

Might airlines, hospitals and school bus companies begin to advertise “Use our services because we urine-test our employees daily?” They would be “free” to do so.

Would you be more likely to fly an airline that advertised that? Or a hospital? Or a school bus company? You would be free to do so. Only time will tell if they will advertise that, or you will be swayed by that advertising, or if I will, too.

Loyal subscriber, I hope this is helpful to you. Thanks for writing in, and thanks, too, for presenting such an interesting question. If you are an investor, here’s a stock tip for you: companies that make employee-urine testing kits might find a place in your portfolio, especially if they do business in Colorado.

Please consider telling your friends, family and colleagues about our blog – we’d REALLY appreciate that!! Oh, yes, and tell them, too, that subscribing to our blog is free, fun and helpful.

My Best,
Al Sklover

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.


Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

Receive All Our Posts - It's Free!

Monthly Newsletter, Discounts, Events