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I have a drinking problem and lost my job what can I do?

Three months ago I was sent home from work for bein intoxicated. I have struggled with alcoholism for the past two years. Yesterday, I was under the influence of alcohol when I attended work and my employer fired me. Is there anything I can do?

Obviously it is legitimate to not permit employees to attend the workplace intoxicated – it can be unsafe and unproductive. This does not mean however that an employer can simply dismiss an employee who attends work under the influence of alcohol. Alcoholism is an addiction and considered a disability under Ontario Human Rights Code. Employers must accommodate alcoholism, like any other disability, to the point of undue hardship. This could include permitting an employee to take time off work to attend rehab or tolerating poor attendance while that employee is at a low-point in his addiction. Some employers will simply terminate an employee and claim “I fired him because of his attendance record, and not because of his alcoholism.” If the absences are a result of alcoholism, they are the symptom of a disability and for all intents and purposes, one in the same.

Individuals struggling with alcoholism can be fairly expected by an employer to undergo treatment and make efforts to continue sobriety, however blanket rules that an employee will be terminated if they relapse, often referred to as “last-chance agreements”, often amount to discrimination. The specific relapse must be considered, along with all of the factors that led to the relapse. Relapses are a part of the disability and there are ups and downs. A one-size-fits-all approach to a future relapse is inappropriate.

Wade Poziomka
Wade Poziomka
P: 905.572.5824
wpoziomka@rossmcbride.com