How to Deal With an Employee Who Drinks Too Much

by Melody Dawn

Employees who drink too much can cost companies money and time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately one in every 13 adults abuses alcohol on a regular basis. Individuals who drink frequently have a higher rate of absenteeism and are at greater risk for on-the-job accidents. Though it is a personal choice for someone to drink, employers have legitimate reasons for addressing alcoholism if it interferes with an individual's ability to perform her job.

Company Policies

Refer to the company policy on alcohol and work-related issues. Speak to the employee about your concerns, whether it is appearance, performance, absenteeism or coming to work intoxicated. Ask if he understands the company policies on alcohol use, and explain them to him to be sure. Tell him he must improve or seek help or the company will terminate him. Fill out a disciplinary form and have him sign it so you have a copy for the company.


Encourage your employee to seek treatment. Explain her benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According the United States Department of Labor, you may take a leave of absence from work for substance abuse if you seek treatment from a medical professional. Individuals taking part in a program receive protection under the ADA as long as they can still perform their jobs safely and to the best of their abilities. Under the FMLA, the employee may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of time off while undergoing treatment. Upon return, they will receive their old job or a comparable one.

Incorporate Screening

Avoid future instances of alcohol abuse by introducing screening. Employees must sign an agreement for random testing, and sign a consent form for each additional test. Be careful with current employees, because they are under no legal obligation to agree to a change in testing.

Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) offer employees short-term counseling and referrals for addictions and medication issues, including depression. Allow employees to schedule appointments during normal business hours to meet with a trained counselor who will evaluate the situation, and will continue to monitor progress during treatment. Keep all meetings private and confidential.

Refusal of Treatment

Take disciplinary actions if the employee refuses to accept treatment and the situation does not improve. The ADA does not restrict employers from firing or disciplining addicts who fail to meet performance standards. Be clear to the individual that the disciplinary action is due to poor performance, not because he has a disability.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Melody Dawn has been writing business articles and blogs since 2004. Her work has appeared in the "Gainesville Times," "Player's Press" and "USA Today." She is also skilled in writing product descriptions and marketing materials. Dawn holds a Master of Business from Brenau University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images