My Colleague Needs Help With Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is not only confined to an individual’s home or private life. Its impact reaches the workplace. A survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health revealed that 67 percent of human resource professionals believe that substance abuse and addiction is one of the most serious issues they face in their companies, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that 24 percent of workers admitted to drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.
Knowing how to handle a colleague who needs help with alcohol addiction is challenging. He or she may not welcome your input or may fear losing employment or the financial strain from an unpaid leave. And even if you suspect your colleague is misusing alcohol, especially during the workday, you should not report the person to human resources unless there is substantiated proof.
There are laws in place to help protect employees. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer cannot fire a person for undergoing addiction treatment. Individuals who need to take time off work for alcohol addiction treatment are also protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles eligible employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical and family reasons, which includes alcohol rehabilitation treatment.
Recovery Centers of America provides evidence-based, individualized treatment solutions for individuals and families struggling with alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders. With an individualized approach to addiction treatment and a comprehensive continuum of care, we are here to help your colleague take steps to recovery.
Commonly asked questions:
- Should I tell HR that my colleague needs alcohol addiction treatment?
- Should I tell my boss that my colleague needs addiction treatments?
- Can I get in trouble at work for not speaking up about my colleague’s addiction?
- Can my colleague sue me for reporting their addiction problems?
- How can I talk to my colleague about seeking rehabilitation treatments?
- Will my colleague lose his or her job if I report addiction?
- Can my colleague work remotely from inside the rehabilitation facility?
- Can I remain anonymous when attempting to get help for my colleague’s addiction?
- How can I determine if my colleague needs alcohol rehabilitation?
Should I tell HR that my colleague needs alcohol addiction treatment?
It can be a difficult situation working with a colleague who needs help with alcohol addiction. You should be very careful when speculating about alcohol abuse, and should not take action with human resources unless you’ve seen someone drinking heavily or exhibiting behavior of being under the influence of alcohol at work. If you do witness alcohol abuse first-hand, consider your relationship with your colleague before approaching your HR department. Do you work closely with each other on a regular basis? Are you friends outside of the workplace? Does he or she work in another department and are your interactions rare? If your relationship is conducive to a conversation about your concerns, approach the person first before bringing up the issue with human resources. Express concern from a place of understanding, empathy and friendship.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your coworker, refer to your company’s employee assistance program or confidential hotline. Many employers have a substance abuse policy in place, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence recommends that employers establish a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as an effective way to address alcohol problems in the workplace. If your company does not have an EAP or if you are unsure how to approach your colleague, one of the professional interventionists at Recovery Centers of America can help you open up a conversation with your coworker.
Should I tell my boss that my colleague needs addiction treatments?
There are various considerations to take into account when it comes to telling your boss about a colleague’s alleged alcohol addiction. If you and your colleague work with dangerous materials or heavy equipment, you may be required to speak up to protect others from injury or death if you witness your colleague working under the influence of alcohol.
If you don’t know someone to be under the influence at work and instead merely suspect someone is battling alcohol addiction while away from work, it’s best to contact Recovery Centers of America where your information and the information about your colleague are kept strictly confidential.
In other instances, if you are unsure about telling your boss about a colleague’s alcohol addiction, refer to your company’s substance abuse policy, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or confidential hotline.
Can I get in trouble at work for not speaking up about my colleague’s addiction?
If your position involves handling dangerous materials or operating heavy equipment, you may be required by your company to “see something, say something.” If you are not sure if speaking up about your colleague’s alcohol addiction will get you in trouble, consult your company handbook, human resources department or a workplace attorney.
Can my colleague sue me for reporting their addiction problems?
There is no easy answer for this since it depends on the basis of the report. There is a difference between reporting someone for “suspected alcohol addiction” and reporting someone for “drinking on the job.” If you see someone drinking or doing drugs in the workplace, you should report the action to HR immediately.
In terms of legal recourse, it will depend on your company’s human resource policies.
How can I talk to my colleague about seeking rehabilitation treatments?
It comes down to the relationship you have in the workplace. If you have worked closely with a person and are also friends outside of work, the discussion may seem more genuine. Whereas, if you have few interactions with the person, they might become defensive if approached.
Family members, friends and coworkers are influential in getting loved ones to enter into alcohol addiction treatment. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 90 percent of people who receive an intervention enter into addiction treatment. One way to approach a colleague who needs help with alcohol addiction is to work with one of Recovery Centers of America’s professional interventionists, who will organize an intervention free of charge.
Interventionists will help you pick a meeting place for the intervention, gather a caring group of friends, family, and coworkers, and open the lines of communication with your colleague. If a colleague needs help with alcohol addiction, and you don’t know how to start a conversation about treatment, the professional intervention team at Recovery Centers of America can help.
Will my colleague lose his or her job if I report addiction?
A number of factors contribute to this answer. What is the employee’s standing prior to the report? Have any absences, poor performances, or tardiness been documented? Is the person an at-will employee? If your coworker is an “at-will” employee, he or she can be terminated for just cause and without warning.
The ADA and FMLA do NOT provide any special protection to individuals whose alcohol addiction is affecting job performance or is in violation of company policies. However, if the colleague who needs help with alcohol addiction meets the terms and conditions of FMLA and ADA, he or she cannot be terminated for going into alcohol addiction treatment.
Can my colleague work remotely from inside the rehabilitation facility?
It varies by situation. For instance, if a person has a position of responsibility and one of his or her conditions upon admittance is to bring a laptop in to complete payroll or perform other important job responsibilities, it may be permitted.
In other circumstances, where patients are progressing in treatment, Recovery Centers of America inpatient locations provide some accommodations for patients to work remotely. However, since the focus is on addiction treatment during your colleague’s inpatient stay, working a full, 8-hour day is not possible. There is no black and white policy about working remotely while in an alcohol rehabilitation program. It is on a case-by-case basis and depends on how well the patient is progressing. If there is regression, working privileges will be reconsidered and potentially revoked as a means of getting the patient engaged in treatment.
Can I remain anonymous when attempting to get help for my colleague’s addiction?
When you call 1-800-RECOVERY, you can choose to remain anonymous. Recovery Centers of America will then reach out to the person of concern and keep your identity private.
How can I determine if my colleague needs alcohol rehabilitation?
If you suspect your colleague is drinking too much, you should consider having a personal conversation if you feel comfortable approaching the subject. These conversations can be challenging, so be sure to reference some of Recovery Centers of America’s free resources to help guide you in this effort. If you even suspect your colleague’s alcohol use is habitual or addictive, it is best to consult a licensed professional for assistance.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse include physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or impaired memory. Behavioural and performance symptoms of alcohol abuse in the workplace include increased absenteeism, frequent tardiness, unexplained disappearances, diminished quality of work.
If requested, the professional intervention team at Recovery Centers of America will help you set up and run an intervention for your colleague free of charge. Interventions are highly effective in getting individuals to enter into alcohol addiction treatment facilities and start on the path to recovery.