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How should you handle leave requests for addiction recovery?

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2022 | Employment Law

Drug and alcohol addiction carries much less stigma than in previous eras. Decades ago, those suffering from substance abuse and addiction could expect little understanding from employers when they needed time off for rehabilitation.

Now more employees feel better about broaching this sensitive topic with their employers. Since substance addiction is a recognized medical issue, your workers may be entitled to reasonable workplace accommodations when seeking rehabilitation.

Support from the law

Under California law, private employers with at least 25 employees must accommodate workers who voluntarily seek substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) treatment. However, if accommodating an employee would pose undue hardships for your company, you need not comply.

Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Approving time off to seek and participate in rehabilitation
  • Allowing affected workers to use the sick leave for treatment
  • Reassigning workers to a different position when vacant
  • Adjusting work and break schedules for employees in treatment

Further, employers may not terminate any worker solely due to drug or alcohol addiction. However, if their condition substantially interferes with their duties or endangers themselves and others in the workplace, you may have the right to end their employment.

Employee privacy is crucial

You should also take reasonable steps to preserve the privacy of employees participating in an alcohol and drug addiction recovery program. The preservation of worker privacy is an often-overlooked requirement under the law.

It is always in your best interests to comply with labor laws. If you overlook even one, you could face legal trouble — including allegations of discrimination.

Our state has complicated employment laws that most employers struggle to understand completely. Any time you feel uncertain about the rights of yourself and your staff, refresh your knowledge of California-specific labor regulations.