If I’m an alcoholic and my employer knew this, do I have a case for wrongful termination now that I’ve relapsed?

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If I’m an alcoholic and my employer knew this, do I have a case for wrongful termination now that I’ve relapsed?

My employer knew this. I had treatment and was clean for over 20 months over which time I excelled at my job, was promoted and given a substantial raise. I recently relapsed and was subsequently fired.

Asked on January 9, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

What do you mean by "relapsed"? If your relapse ocurred only non-work and never affected work, then may well have been illegal disability-based (alcoholism is considered a disability for this purpose) employmet discrimination. In this case, you should speak with the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency and discuss filing a complaint. BUT if your relapse affected you at work, causing a loss of productivity, absenteeism or lateness, inappropriate behavior at work, drinking on the job, etc., you could be fired: in that case, you are being terminated not for having a medical condition, but for your actions. The law does not require employers to retain employees who miss work, aren't productive, act inappropriately, etc. even if there is a medical cause for that behavior.


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