In California, people with disabilities are in a protected class of persons. This means that if you are qualified and able to work, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against you and must make “reasonable accommodations” so that you can work with your disability. Analogous to this is drug addiction, which is a terrible disease that often requires some form of intensive substance abuse treatment. Unfortunately, there is a legitimate balance between an employee’s right to privacy versus an employer’s right to employ effective, safe employees.
The state of California has enacted numerous laws in an attempt to navigate this balance. In fact, California has many laws that protect employees beyond federal labor laws. This includes a freedom from discrimination due to the disabling condition of drug addiction. However, it is important to know that this freedom is not absolute.
California Labor Code
Under the California Labor Code, employers with more than 25 employees are required to offer reasonable accommodations to “any employee who wishes to voluntarily enter and participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, provided that this reasonable accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.” In other words, if you are struggling with addiction and wish to seek help, your employer is obligated to allow you that opportunity so long as it does not create an undue hardship on your employer. A reasonable accommodation may include a wide range of options, such as a transfer to another position, a modification in work schedule, or a re-structured job position.
Further, it is important to be aware of the following caveats:
- Significantly, this law does not prevent an employer from discharging or refusing to hire a person who is currently using drugs and who: (1) cannot perform their job duties; or (2) will endanger their own safety or the safety of others.
- Your employer is not required to offer you paid time to enter rehabilitation. Instead, you can use accrued sick leave or vacation time for this purpose. In addition, FMLA or CFRA leave may be an appropriate way of using job-protected leave for rehabilitation purposes.
Moss Bollinger Stands Up For Employees
If you have struggled with addiction and your employer has either refused to allow you to seek treatment or has taken adverse employment action against you while in treatment, contact Moss Bollinger. Drug and alcohol addiction are diseases and you have a legal right to voluntarily seek treatment. The Moss Bollinger law firm advocates for employees against unlawful employment actions. We take addiction very seriously and are proud to help people who are simply trying to better themselves. Contact Moss Bollinger at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or complete our online form.