Employer Practice Encouraging Drinking at Work may be Discriminatory in New York.

I’m Jonas Urba, a New York employment lawyer, here with Employment Law Reality Check. If an employer has a policy that consuming alcohol is part of the job is that good or bad? Well, let’s take three situations. First, a recovering alcoholic, or someone that abused drugs or alcohol, was addicted to drugs or alcohol in the past, and now no longer uses drugs or alcohol, is protected. They are considered a disabled person. And as long as they do not return to the addiction of drugs or alcohol, they are protected as disabled persons under several laws, federal and state. ADA, Rehabilitation Act, New York State Executive Law, City Human Rights Law, and other laws. So an employer that is encouraging or insisting on alcohol consumption may have a disparate impact on employees who don’t drink or previously had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Secondly, many people who do not wish to disclose medications they are on or any type of conditions, mental health conditions or physical conditions, they don’t want to tell their employer about those. They have no need to do that. There’s no requirement that an employee disclose underlying conditions to the employer. However, if the employer is requiring or insisting or encouraging alcohol consumption at work, and that employee is taking prescription medication, which can have an adverse effect on the medication by consuming alcohol, that’s a real problem. That opens the employer up to potentially affecting the employee’s health. And the employee potentially has to disclose information to the employer which they would never have to disclose but for the requirement of consuming alcohol on the job. And finally liability. If an employer encourages, insists, requires that employees consume alcohol on the job, not only do they have the safety issue on the workplace premises and once they leave the workplace, but also the liability issue of what happens when we have a discrimination complaint, someone says something, alcohol is not a defense. It’s no more a defense than marijuana today. Marijuana is legal in the state. But that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to be consuming it on the job, just like with alcohol. There are many considerations which employers fail to consider before instituting either formal or informal policies about consuming mind altering substances on work premises. So if you have those situations call some employment lawyers. You can call me. I’m Jonas Urba. I serve the entire state of New York and I can be reached at (212) 731-4776. Attorney advertising. Stay safe.



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