Many alcoholics are members of the workforce and, often times, integral parts of the office culture. But what happens when somebody’s alcohol problem makes its way to work? Should employers help the person overcome their hardships, or should they immediately fire him or her? In my books, alcoholism isn’t exactly a clear-cut case for a firing.
A Huffington Post article featured a boss that fired an alcoholic employee.
“If I was this man’s friend, I would feel a responsibility. If I was this guy’s father or family member, I would feel a responsibility,” Barry Weinstein, a business owner, said. “But, I have a responsibility to my company.”
That’s not exactly fair. My last in-office job had mental health support available. It had insurance coverage for everything from acupuncture to massage to nutritional services. Why exactly are we willing to help someone with their nutrition, but not an alcohol problem? It makes no sense.
I do, however, see the dilemma. If somebody comes to work drunk, there are all sorts of hazards. First, they might actually cause physical harm, depending on their job. Imagine a doctor operating under the influence, or a cab driver driving drunk. And even administrative employees can be hazards when drunk. An intoxicated coworker isn’t really likely to be efficient, precise, or pleasant. Alcoholism is not a huge boost for office morale.
“Sending a person to rehab, it might be good for the person who is suffering from the disorder. But look at what happens to the idea of fairness in the office or the idea of responsibility. It creates tension,” said Weinstein.
There’s where I disagree. Sending an employee to rehab could save a life. It could save multiple lives.
There are no clear rules, and I’m not a business owner, so I don’t really know how I would approach this issue in actuality. My gut, however, wants to say that I’d only fire an alcoholic if they had endangered themselves or others in the workplace. If it’s simply a case of them being late for work, someone smelling alcohol on them, or something that occurred in their personal lives (such as a D.U.I.), I’d like to think that I would offer to help. Alcoholism is a disease. Nobody wants to be an alcoholic.
What do you think about alcoholics in the workforce? Should employees with alcohol problems be immediately fired, or should they be offered a lifeline?