If I was terminated for being under the influence, can I get unemployment benefits?

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If I was terminated for being under the influence, can I get unemployment benefits?

I was terminated for arriving to work with the affects of having been drinking the previous

night still noticeable. My breathe still smelled of alcohol and my speech was slightly slurred.

This happened while on a trip to the main office in Puerto Rico. The action of termination took

place during my return trip without any notification. I found out while on layover. I caused no harm to my employer nor did I give reason to believe that I could not perform my duties if given the opportunity to enter into recovery. My title was VP of IT, Systems and Security and the termination date was 6 weeks ago. I was not given an option to enter into treatment. I voluntarily entered into AA immediately after and have been sober since then. There are no previous incidents of this or any other kind and my review for last year was exemplary which led to a 20k incentive bonus. I thought unemployment benefits would not be denied but I just received a determination that they have been denied. Do I have any legal recourse?

Asked on July 20, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that most employment is "at will", meaning that an employer can set the terms of the workplace much as it sees fit. This includes when and why to fire an empoyee. In fact, a worker can be discharged for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. That is absent some form of legally actionable discrimination being the reason for termination, or if dismissal would violate the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. As for collecting unemployment benefits, if an employee is fired for "cause", then they are ineligible to collect. And being fired for coming to work under the influence of alcohol could constitute "cause".  


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