Yes, you can still fire employees for bad behavior

Employees beware! The law does not protect you from bad behavior!

I hear often from clients statements like, “This employee has no common sense!” I don’t like the term “common sense” because sense is interpreted differently from person to person which means it’s not always common. (A post for a different day, I suppose!) That’s a reason to have good foundations for compliance at your company like handbooks and policies that meet legal standards. I read an example of a situation I wanted to share with you. It seems unbelievable but believe it – it’s true!

In an article written by Jon Hyman on, Jon gives an example of a public sector employee who made a bad decision. A few times. First, he brought alcohol to work. Second, he drank so much on his lunch break he was drunk during his afternoon of operating equipment. Third, he volunteered to the court that he’d done similar things previously. I can only guess that when he volunteered that information he was trying to prove alcoholism (protected under theADA) versus purely bad decision making (not protected by ADA).

Here are the things to pay attention to! The city had in place some important elements to support their decision to terminate this employee. A clearly defined substance use policy including what that means, what isn’t tolerated, and what are the consequences. The employer screened the employee’s blood alcohol level which means “reasonable suspicion” was included in the substance abuse policy. That was key for this employer.

Look, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes more than once, despite our best efforts to learn from our errors. If you have a genuine disability the law is written to protect you from unscrupulous employers. But don’t feign disability because you made a bad decision. Read your company’s policy manuals if you’re unsure if your definition of “common sense” is different from your employer’s. And remember – you can lose your job if you break the rules.

Employers – read this as “I better double check my handbook and policy documents!”

Check out Jon’s article here, courtesy of The Difference Between Alcoholism and Drunk Under the ADA

Learn about the ADA by following this link to the federal government’s website. Or follow this link to the Department of Labor’s page on the ADA.