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Alcoholism considered a disability.



Byline: ON THE JOB by Bureau of Labor and Industries For The Register-Guard

Question: My employee has just told me that she is an alcoholic and needs four weeks off to enter a rehabilitation program Noun 1. rehabilitation program - a program for restoring someone to good health
program, programme - a system of projects or services intended to meet a public need; "he proposed an elaborate program of public works"; "working mothers rely on the day care
. Do I have to give her this time off?

Answer: Probably. Alcoholism alcoholism, disease characterized by impaired control over the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholism is a serious problem worldwide; in the United States the wide availability of alcoholic beverages makes alcohol the most accessible drug, and alcoholism is  is considered a disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. civil-rights law, enacted 1990, that forbids discrimination of various sorts against persons with physical or mental handicaps.  and the Oregon disability laws. Thus, a job applicant or employee who is an alcoholic is legally protected in many ways. Not only are you prohibited from discriminating dis·crim·i·nat·ing  
adj.
1.
a. Able to recognize or draw fine distinctions; perceptive.

b. Showing careful judgment or fine taste:
 against her because of her disability, but you must reasonably accommodate her alcoholism if this can be done without an undue hardship undue hardship Social medicine A term used in the context of the ADA, in which an employer may claim that the accommodations required to comply with the ADA are financially unviable and represent an undue hardship. .

Reasonable accommodation Reasonable accommodation is a legal term used in Canada, which is the legal obligation to modify a law or a norm when it is contrary to fundamental rights stipulated in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  can take many forms, depending upon the situation. It can include (but is not limited to) buying special equipment for an employee, changing an employee's work hours, altering the way the essential job functions are performed, or transferring one or more nonessential non·es·sen·tial
adj.
Being a substance required for normal functioning but not needed in the diet because the body can synthesize it.
 job functions to other employees. And sometimes, as in this case, it means giving the employee time off to receive treatment for a disability. And remember, you are always allowed to require medical certification for any illness-related absence, as long as you pay for any costs associated with that certificate.

The obligation to accommodate ceases when the obligation would be an "undue hardship" to your organization. Undue hardship is based on individual circumstances such as the size of your company, the number of employees, the impact of the accommodation on those employees, the potential cost of the accommodation, etc. If you were to deny this time off to the employee and the employee filed a discrimination claim against you, you would have to show the court or investigating agency why the employee's absence would have had this kind of severe impact on your organization.

Keep in mind that this absence also would probably qualify as treatment for a "serious health condition" under state and federal family medical leave laws. Under those laws, there is no exception for undue hardship, although the laws state that an employee must schedule treatment so as to provide a minimum of disruption for the employer.

Question: We have an employee who has been taking intermittent intermittent /in·ter·mit·tent/ (-mit´ent) marked by alternating periods of activity and inactivity.

in·ter·mit·tent
adj.
1. Stopping and starting at intervals.

2.
 family medical leave one day a week for some time because of her mother's back surgery. We realize that this is a legitimate reason for leave, but we are concerned because she frequently talks about how much fun she has playing games on her mother's new high-speed wireless computer. Can we require a medical certification to see if she's really needed to provide care for her mother?

Answer: Yes, as long as you make the request in writing, allow the employee at least 15 calendar days to return the signed doctor's certification and pay the cost of any examination you are requiring. But keep in mind that the leave laws do not require your employee to be actually administering medical care for her mother. Simply being present and providing psychological comfort and reassurance REASSURANCE. When an insurer is desirous of lessening his liability, he may procure some other insurer to insure him from loss, for the insurance he has made this is called reassurance.  is enough to meet the definition of "caring for" the employee's family member.

Question: Would it be discrimination to pay a higher hourly wage for workers on the graveyard shift graveyard shift
n.
1. A work shift that runs during the early morning hours, as from midnight to 8 a.m.

2. The workers on such a shift.

Noun 1.
, even though they perform the same work as employees on the day shift?

Answer: Not unless the higher pay is based upon a discriminatory dis·crim·i·na·to·ry  
adj.
1. Marked by or showing prejudice; biased.

2. Making distinctions.



dis·crim
 reason. For example, you could not create a policy saying that people younger than 40 are paid a higher wage than older workers, or that employees who have never filed workers' compensation workers' compensation, payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work.  claims receive a bonus for that reason.

But it appears that your pay differential is based only upon work-related criteria - the particular shift an employee is working.

As long as you make this clear to your employees (preferably in a written policy) and apply it equally to all workers on those kinds of shifts, you should be fine.

Question: On a slow workday, we sent an employee home after one hour. Are we required to give him a minimum of four hours of pay for showing up?

Answer: Not if the employee is 18 or older. Several years ago, there was an Oregon law that required employers to pay a minimum number of hours in these cases, but that law was repealed in 1990. Now, you are required to pay only for the hours the employee worked (unless, of course, your policy provides for more). Note that there still is a show-up pay rule in force for minors younger than 18.

See www.oregon.gov/boli for more information on these and other important issues for employers.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 24, 2005
Words:758
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