Should it be legal to discriminate against someone who is actively engaged in alcoholism? Should an alcoholic who is actively drinking be able to sue a company for discrimination based on their addiction?
Lexology says that The ADA.treats alcoholism as an impairment that can form the basis of a disability discrimination suit. The question is, should this extend to someone who has untreated alcoholism?
Everyone probably has their own opinion about this, and all I can really do is offer my own, based on my own experience in alcoholism and in recovery.
My short answer is that I do not believe that an alcoholic who is actively drinking should be allowed to sue a company for discriminating against them. If you are trying to find employment then you need to be able to safely fulfill the requirements of that employment, and most alcoholics fall short of that ability. Sure, there are plenty of functional alcoholics out there who can hold down a job safely (for how long, who knows?) but they are not struggling to find work, they already have a job. The question is, can an alcoholic get upset enough to sue the company that will not hire them based on their untreated alcoholism.
I don't believe that it is fair for an active alcoholic to go around suing companies that won't take a chance on him. That is unfair to the companies in my opinion, and it grants too much power to the alcoholic who most likely knows that there is a solution if they are willing to pursue it.
The real issue comes down to this: Does the alcoholic know that there is a solution available? Do they know that recovery exists? I would think that it is pretty far fetched for an alcoholic in this world, in this modern day and age, to not know anything about recovery, about AA, about inpatient treatment centers, and so on. That is a pretty big pill to swallow, for an alcoholic to plead that level of ignorance.
The fact is that any alcoholic, no matter how bad off they may be, can ask for help and be directed to some form of a solution. Maybe that will be inpatient treatment, maybe it will be a detox program at a local homeless shelter, maybe it will be a trip to the emergency room during their shaky withdrawals followed by a walk down to the local AA club. There is always a solution and a path forward for an alcoholic who is honestly seeking help.
Because treatment is fairly available and widespread here in the United States, I believe it is unfair to allow an alcoholic who is drinking to call foul against someone who discriminates against them. If you are an active alcoholic then you likely don't meet the requirements of performing the job in the first place, and you are certainly a safety risk in more ways than one.
When I was a functional alcoholic and I was working a day job, I would still be drunk sometimes from the night before when I stayed up way too late drinking booze. This is a risk that no employer should have to take on if they know that you are an active alcoholic. The fact that you can come into work on any given day and possibly still be intoxicated from the night before, without even realizing it, can be fairly significant. You become a risk to the company, to any customers, and to yourself in terms of company safety and liability.
If such a law were allowed, if alcoholics could claim this form of discrimination, then I would argue that it could be conditional on their taking steps towards recovery. The alcoholic should have to document that they are seeking treatment for their condition, not that they can perform the job in spite of their alcoholism. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It gets worse and worse over time, so the current level of functionality is really not relevant. The alcoholic who can barely perform the job duties today is not likely to be able to do so in a month, a year, or a decade from now. No one knows how quickly the disease will progress and no one knows what the ensuing risks will be to the company, the coworkers, or the customers.
The real solution, in this case, is not to complain about how you are being discriminated against due to your alcoholism, but to instead go seek out a solution.
We all have a thousand and one excuses as to why we can not, should not, or will not go to inpatient treatment. But going to a 28 day inpatient rehab program is probably the single best thing that a struggling alcoholic could ever do for themselves. At the very least you are certain to get 28 days clean and sober under your belt, and when you leave rehab you will have unlimited potential and possibilities before you.
Now the typical alcoholic may be protesting at this point, saying something like but I won't have a job, and I won't have any way to get money, and if I go to rehab everyone will know that I am an alcoholic, and no one will want to help me.
That is all in the mind. Those are fears that we tell ourselves in order to stay stuck in denial, so that we can continue to self medicate with alcohol or other drugs.
The truth is that if you go to rehab, you will likely come out of treatment and be introduced to a recovery program and a fellowship of people who are more than willing to help you. If you are, for example, attending AA meetings and earnestly trying to work the program, then the people at the AA meetings are very likely to want to help you in any way that they can. This can include, in some cases, finding someone who needs to hire a person for a job, or part time employment, or even someone who is looking for a full time person. But for you to stay stuck in active alcoholism because you fear the stigma of addiction will be cast on you forever is just nonsense. There is an entire recovery community that will bend over backwards to try to help those who are helping themselves.
The real hope for this problem is that of prevention and education. Every alcoholic should know that there is help available, so that the problem of the untreated alcoholic does not have to exist any longer. If someone has Strep throat, they know that they can see a doctor and be prescribed an antibiotic and get the disease completely treated and taken care of. Unfortunately we are not yet at this point when it comes to addiction and alcoholism, and perhaps that is the entire problem. We need to educate the world in such a way that every person knows that there is help available for addiction and alcoholism if the person is willing to seek it out.
If it is you or a loved one who is struggling with addiction then I urge you to get on the phone and call a rehab center. Get into a 28 day program and get your life turned around. Sure, you can complain that companies are discriminating against you, or you could do something about your problem and remove the need for complaint. Ask yourself what the responsible thing to do really is in this case, and act accordingly. I hope you will seek the help that you need.
The post Should there be Laws Preventing Discrimination Against Untreated Alcoholism? appeared first on Spiritual River Addiction Help.