Employee & Workplace FAQ
Can I terminate someone because he or she has a substance abuse problem?
The short answer is no. Addiction is a disease, and as such, constitutes a disability under human rights legislation. An employer has a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.
What employers must do is:
- Enforce their alcohol and drug policy in a consistent and equitable manner
- Document each encounter with the employee (why, where, when, with whom and with what outcome)
- Offer outside help, such as Renascent’s Workplace Solutions course of treatment and after-care support
Treatment serves two objectives:
- The employer reclaims a valuable, grateful and newly motivated employee
- Obligations are fulfilled in support of dismissal for cause.
Other factors that should influence the decision to terminate include the existence of a clear substance abuse policy and how well supervisors have been trained in its terms and conditions.
Can employers ask employees whether they have an addiction problem?
There is no simple answer as it depends on the individual circumstances. While many employers balk at asking questions like these, many employment lawyers would say that you can ask if you have sufficient reasons or probable cause. To help determine this, answer our questionnaire then call us for a free consultation at 1-866-232-1212.
As a supervisor, what do I need to know about mandatory treatment?
Mandatory treatment comes from a violation of a company drug and alcohol policy or incident that puts the employee, coworkers and/or the public at risk. This is most common in safety-sensitive environments. The employer cannot condone the behaviour, but there is a duty to accommodate the employee’s disability. The employee must comply with treatment requirements, or will be subject to termination.
The employer needs to determine what duty to accommodate may exist and to what extent. An assessment is necessary. You must always have your eye on the objective: what is our duty to accommodate and what are the next steps? Renascent’s Workplace Solutions can provide an assessment and a treatment plan as deemed appropriate. You should naturally encourage and support this course of action.
Why is abstinence-based treatment important to employers?
Employers need to dictate the terms for continued employment as they are responsible for workplace safety and financial performance. Employers can and should specify abstinence-based treatment as a requirement for continued employment if the employee has been assessed as having an addiction problem.
Given a choice to reduce drinking or eliminate it, it’s not surprising the addict will choose moderation. The problem is addicted people can’t moderate or as Eric Clapton explains, “The idea of one drink for me is fascinating and fantastic. But it is also an impossibility because one is too many and thousand isn’t enough.”
Abstinence is the safest course and most honest treatment goal. Abstinence, as Renascent’s independent outcome studies prove, is possible for the majority of clients. Furthermore, abstinence does not produce a life of sad deprivation. Quality of life (emotional health, relationships, job performance and health) improves with abstinence – just listen to any recovering addict tell their story.
Why is Renascent Complete Care so effective in helping clients into lifelong recovery?
Recovery is real and sustainable for a lifetime when you understand the nature of the disease. Renascent Complete Care, grounded in the 12-step philosophy, helps clients achieve the goal of complete abstinence because it’s more than a “quick fix” intervention. In addition to a 21 day residential program, Renascent Complete Care offers structured relapse prevention, family care and continuous learning opportunities to support lifelong recovery.
How does Renascent deliver treatment?
Renascent Complete Care can be facilitated to clients regardless of where they live. The majority of Complete Care can be delivered locally; only the first three weeks requires clients to attend treatment in Ontario at one of its three centres. And only Renascent truly offers immediate access to allow motivated clients to start the recovery process when they’re ready.
What kind of support can employers expect from Renascent Workplace Solutions?
Coaching, information and reporting are the value-added services Renascent Atlantic Workplace Solutions provides. Whether it’s telephone support to help a manager approach an addicted employee, the latest employment law news or policy consultation, Renascent Atlantic Workplace Solutions can help. Because managers often never know if their employee has entered treatment let alone if they’re complying with their treatment plan, reporting is the perhaps the most useful service Renascent offers employers. With consent from the employee, Renascent connects the dots between employee, manager and treatment provider, providing the necessary reports to monitor compliance. Employers can reclaim or terminate an employee knowing that they’ve accommodated the disability up to the point of undue hardship.
What should I do if an employee denies a problem?
You may think the employee will deny having an alcohol problem but you don’t know for sure and won’t know until you ask.
A quiet, private spot is best (speak to someone in your Human Resources department first to ensure you’re complying with company policy). The “why” need not be disclosed at this point. Relay what you see (tired, sloppy work, slurring) and ask if there is anything you should know. If there is an admission, call your EAP or Renascent for guidance and help for the employee. If the problem is denied, review the behaviours you’ve seen and explain it concerns you both as their supervisor and on a human level.
If the denial persists along with the behaviour or the behaviour becomes worse, as they inevitably do as the disease progresses, call Renascent’s Workplace Solutions for a consultation.
Are there any short cuts to documenting employees with substance abuse problems?
No. Behaviour at the best of times is complex. Substance abuse or addiction has social, economic and legal implications and the matter deserves the utmost time and attention. It is critical to observe behaviour, not diagnose personal problems. Recording what you see and hear is necessary when a pattern of deteriorating performance emerges.
Well-substantiated documentation will provide objective information to set the stage for possible corrective action. It will also help the employer/supervisor avoid becoming personally involved in the employee’s problems. The documented behaviour must be observable and verifiable. It is also very important to follow your company’s specific guidelines for documenting employee performance to ensure you are in compliance with company policies and privacy legislation.
How can I make an addicted employee go for help?
While you may feel your employee needs help, they either have to voluntarily indicate they want help or there must be a lever such as documentation of declining job performance or some critical incident which results in personal injury or damage to production. This is the reason why employers need a comprehensive and clearly communicated substance abuse policy that takes into consideration the legal and medical implications of drug testing and whether an employee is in a safety-sensitive job.
Are employers responsible for employees who cause car accidents after drinking too much at office parties?
In the decision of Hunt v. Sutton Group Realty Inc., the trial judge found an employer liable for 25% of the damages suffered by an intoxicated employee who was seriously injured in a car accident following the office’s holiday party. While the decision was subsequently overturned on procedural errors, the finding with respect to an employer’s liability remains intact.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada, in Childs v. Desormeaux, held that, as a general rule, private hosts don’t have a duty of care to a person injured by a guest who consumed alcohol at their party or public users of highways.
The Court did, however, leave open the possibility that there could be a finding of liability if the host’s conduct implicates him or her in the creation or exacerbation of the risk. In particular, the Court noted this could apply to a host who continues to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person knowing he or she will be driving home.
What should I do when an employee who’s been to treatment relapses?
Every situation is different, but relapse is not uncommon in early sobriety. You need to make sure the employee benefits from Renascent Complete Care which addresses relapse, supports family and offers lifelong support. Participation in 12-step meetings is a very effective way to protect against relapse. Make sure your employee is aware of the consequences, as outlined in an alcohol and drug policy, if relapse reoccurs. And make sure you follow through with consequences while offering support.