Addiction in the workplace

The employer’s duty to accommodate
By Jeffrey Miller
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Background

Canadian law defines alcoholism and many other addictions as illnesses. Under human rights legislation, this makes them “disabilities” or “handicaps.” Generally speaking, employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities, including employees with substance abuse problems.

Usually the law requires that employers attempt to help the workers rehabilitate themselves and hold onto their jobs. However, the employer does not have a duty to accommodate the worker to the point of “undue” or “unreasonable” hardship. That is, if the only available methods of accommodation interfere unreasonably with the employer’s operations, the employer can terminate the alcoholic or addict “for cause.”