Category Archives: Alcohol

BREAKING BAD: FIVE SUBSTANCES THAT CAN RUIN YOUR BODY AND WORKPLACE

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”

What if you could instantly improve your health or that of your employees by doing nothing?  I have seen it done — over and over.

The principle is simple:   Success is equal parts engaging in positive behaviors and, just as important, avoiding negative behaviors.

This article focuses on consciously avoiding or at least limiting certain negative behaviors.  Avoiding or controlling these five things — food choices, pills, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco — will transform your body, brain, and workplace instantly.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:  WHO ARE YOU — AN ABSTAINER OR A MODERATOR?

Before understanding your unique relationship with the five substances discussed below, it is important to understand who you are.

Gretchen Rubin, author of New York Times bestsellers Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Homebelieves there are two types of people:  moderators and abstainers.

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

Play to your strength.  If you are a moderator, enjoy some of the substances discussed below from time to time.  However, if you decide that you are an abstainer, consider steering clear of starting something you may not be able to stop.  For me, one donut usually equals three donuts.  Know what I mean?

BREAKING BAD:  WHAT PROCESSED FOOD AND CRACK HAVE IN COMMON

Have you ever had a friend or loved one struggle with sugar cravings?  In his article, “Sugar Addiction:  Is it Real?”, Dr. Phil Maffetone poses important questions to ask:

  • Why is it so difficult for so many people to even consider giving up sugar and sugar-containing foods, and refined carbohydrates?
  • Do you observe this in others?
  • Do you react to eating sugary foods by getting sleepy, moody, or losing concentration?
  • When you avoid sugar or don’t eat it, do you experience cravings or uneasiness with strong desires to eat more?
  • Do you tend to eat sugary foods even though you know you shouldn’t, and feel you should better control yourself?

Dr. Maffetone goes on to note that these questions about addiction are similar to indications of drug addiction, and the reason researchers and clinicians see an overlap between sweets and drugs.  The cycle is perpetuated with the feeling of withdrawal when the drug, or sugar, is not available, followed by the urge to abuse the drug (sugar) again.

He concludes with a striking observation:  “Sugar may also be a primary issue in those with other “secondary” addictions.  In this case, treating the sugar problem—getting a person off the white stuff—might be the first step in eliminating other substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or so-called harder drugs like heroin and cocaine.”

So, if personal health is your objective, or if you desire healthier employees and reduced healthcare and workers compensation costs, think twice this Friday about bringing in that baker’s dozen of donuts, bagels, or other junk food.  Or, start improving by switching to every other Friday (if you are a moderator).

Bottom line:  get off the sugar crack, educate yourself about the downside of processed food, and you will be rewarded almost immediately.

TOBACCO

I know the addictive nature of tobacco.  I started “chewing” Copenhagen back in my baseball playing days and the habit followed me for years.

It is easy to say “stop using tobacco, it’s bad for you.”  Everyone knows this obvious truth.  Instead, follow the lead of companies like Bourque Law Firm client Able Engineering and institute a policy that bans the use of this deadly substance.  When first enacted, Able gave workers six months to quit smoking and using tobacco products.  Coupled with its wellness program, Able’s policy has been a huge success:  Since 2010 it has seen a 66% reduction in healthcare spend for employees.

By implementing a non-tobacco policy, your company will instantly have healthier, more productive employees.  Even better, you will be a major catalyst in saving lives and sparing workers from the devastation of lung cancer and the parade of other horribles that accompanies smoking.  Talk about a win-win.

PILLS

Sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.

In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.  Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. As a consequence, the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013.

America, we have a problem.  And to believe it is not having adverse effects on your workplace is naïve.  Instead of sitting back and suffering the obvious and hidden effects of prescription drug abuse:

  • Implement an effective prescription drug use policy within your overall drug and alcohol policy  [see “Draft Policy” below for a sample policy]
  • Educate employees and encourage them to come forward and address any issues
  • Train supervisors and management  on, among other things, your workplace policy for prescription drug use and understanding potential signs of impairment
  • Have a solid employee assistance program

ALCOHOL

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a room with four lawyers.  But if you do, on average one of the four, if they are males, is an alcoholic.

Various factors drive lawyers, and Americans, to drink.  As for the latter, we are drinking ourselves to death at record rates:  In 2014, deaths from alcohol-induced causes increased 37 percent from 2002.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Cultivate good habits, evaluate your bad habits, and check-in with friends and discuss how they and you are coping with life’s stresses and substances.  Do not ignore the obvious.  Equally so,  do not permit yourself to be ignorant of the less obvious markers of alcohol abuse.

MARIJUANA

Times have changed.  Marijuana is suddenly “OK” in many circles.  Near my kids’ school, there is a massive “Dr. Marijuana” sign that we pass daily on the ride in.

In Arizona, an employer can be sued for firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana if the employee has a medical marijuana card.

Let us not fool ourselves.  Like pills and alcohol, marijuana is a serious drug.  Whether it becomes fully legalized in Arizona or elsewhere, it should be treated as such.

CONCLUSION

Many people take better care of their cars than of their bodies.  None of us is perfect.  However, we can all improve each day by (1) understanding the effect of the substances we put in our mouths and (2) making better choices given this knowledge.  I wish you all success on your personal journey.

Art Bourque has guided businesses and individuals for 25 years on implementing substance abuse and wellness policies, training supervisors and employees, and on alcohol and drug issues, including prevention and testing.  Contact Mr. Bourque with any questions concerning this article.

Here is Mr. Bourque’s favorite ever skit on drugs, by the great George Carlin — enjoy:

DRAFT DRUG PRESCRIPTION POLICY

It is a violation of our Drug-Free Workplace Policy to use, possess, sell, trade, and/or offer for sale alcohol, illegal drugs, or intoxicants. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not prohibited when taken in standard dosage and/or according to a physician’s prescription. Any employee taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications will be responsible for consulting the prescribing physician and/or pharmacist to ascertain whether the medication may interfere with the safe performance of his/her job. If the use of a medication could compromise the safety of the employee, fellow employees, or the public, it is the employee’s responsibility to use appropriate personnel procedures (e.g., call in sick, use leave, request change of duty, notify supervisor, notify company doctor) to avoid unsafe workplace practices. The illegal or unauthorized use of prescription drugs is prohibited. It is a violation of our drug-free workplace policy to intentionally misuse and/or abuse prescription medications. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if job performance deteriorates and/or incidents occur.

 

USC’S EX-FOOTBALL COACH SUES THE SCHOOL FOR FAILING TO ACCOMODATE HIS ALCOHOLISM: DOES HE HAVE A CASE?

Yesterday, ex-USC Trojan football coach Steve Sarkasian sued the University, claiming that it discriminated against him because he is an alcoholic.

Does Coach Sarkasian have a case?  Are alcoholics protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?  Should employers, therefore, proceed with caution when discharging alcoholic employees?  Read on for the answers.

BIG TROUBLE AT ‘SC

Problems surfaced in August of this year when Coach Sarkasian appeared intoxicated and used inappropriate language at a pep rally.  Here is a clip of  him at the event:

Subsequently, reports surfaced that Sarkasian was drunk on the sidelines of USC’s September 26 game against Arizona State University.

On October 11, Sarkasian was placed on “indefinite leave” by USC’s Athletic Director, Pat Haden.  Less than 24 hours later he was fired:

“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

SARKASIAN SUES USC FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION BASED ON HIS ALCOHOLISM

Sarkasian’s lawsuit claims that USC knew he was an alcoholic and, therefore, had a duty to accommodate him:

“California law imposes a duty on USC to make reasonable accommodations for a disability, such as alcoholism, unless USC could demonstrate that doing so would have imposed an undue hardship.  Furthermore, California law imposes a duty on USC to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with Steve Sarkisian to determine effective and reasonable accommodations for his disability. This is particularly true since Mr. Sarkisian requested an
accommodation. USC also was required under California law to seek input from Mr. Sarkisian as to what accommodations may be needed.

USC also cannot credibly argue that Helton was incompetent to handle the team’s head coaching duties while Steve Sarkisian was on leave given that USC has now hired Helton to be the permanent Head Coach for at least the next five years.

USC also failed to engage in a timely, good-faith interactive process with Steve Sarkisian to determine an effective and reasonable accommodation. Instead, USC fired Steve Sarkisian by email less than 24 hours after placing him on leave. Had USC not withdrawn its decision, less than 24 hours after announcing it, to place Mr. Sarkisian on leave, he would have been able to obtain the treatment he needed and then return to successfully perform his essential job functions as Head Coach.”

The California law upon which Sarkasian relies mirrors the ADA.  It requires an employer to make a reasonable accommodation for a disability unless such accommodation would place an undue hardship on the employer.

ARE ALCOHOLICS PROTECTED UNDER THE ADA?

Alcoholics are indeed protected under the ADA.  The US Department of Justice provides this Q&A on the issue:

Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA?

A.
Yes.  While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Technical Assistance Manual provides: “A person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection simply because of the alcohol use. An alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation, if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. However, an employer may discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that s/he is not ‘qualified.’ ”

CONCLUSION

Does the Sarkasian case instruct us that employers cannot terminate alcoholics?  No.

Employers may prohibit the use or possession of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the workplace.  Thus, if an alcoholic or non-alcoholic employee is violating work rules relating to the use or possession of alcohol, that employee may be terminated.

What an employer cannot do is terminate an alcoholic employee on the basis of his/her disease or fail to reasonably accommodate an alcoholic, when such accommodation does not impose an undue burden on the employer.

How will the Sarkasian case play out?  It will most likely settle.  There is a lot at stake, bad publicity all the way around, and Trojan Nation will likely want to move on.  For the time being, USC has issued this statement:

“Much of what is stated in the lawsuit … is patently untrue … The record will show that Mr. Sarkisian repeatedly denied to university officials that he had a problem with alcohol, never asked for time off to get help and resisted university efforts to provide him with help.”

Art Bourque has guided businesses and individuals in various HR matters, including alcohol and substance abuse incidents.  Contact Mr. Bourque with any questions regarding these or other employment issues.

IT’S PARTY TIME: HOLIDAY PARTY TIPS TO AVOID GETTING SUED WHEN YOUR GUESTS GET HAMMERED OR OTHERWISE DO STUPID STUFF

It seems early in the season to be talking about holiday parties (of course, some would say it’s never too early).  However, many companies, families, and others are already well into the planning stages of throwing a holiday party.  Most parties will involve alcohol and varying levels of revelry.

Inevitably, when alcohol and revelry intersect, things can go wrong.  When things go wrong and people get hurt, party hosts who have served alcohol are often sued by the victim of a drunk  driver or sexual assaulter.  This HR Law Insider edition discusses how employers and other social hosts (e.g. private party hosts, family party hosts) can limit their liability and protect themselves against such lawsuits.

 

ARIZONA LAW PROTECTS SOCIAL HOSTS, EXCEPT WHEN THEY ARE SERVING MINORS

Arizona’s “social host” statute provides:

“A person other than a licensee or an employee of a licensee acting during the employee’s working hours or in connection with such employment is not liable in damages to any person who is injured, or to the survivors of any person killed, or for damage to property, which is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor to a person of the legal drinking age.”

Thus, if a non-liquor licensed employer throws a holiday party, or an individual throws a holiday party at his or her home, they will not generally be liable if one of their guests becomes intoxicated and harms a third party.

It should be noted that the social host statute does NOT extend protection to social hosts who provide alcohol to persons not of the legal drinking age.  Thus, it was held that members of a University of Arizona fraternity could be held liable for serving drinks to an underage person who became intoxicated, got behind the wheel, and severely injured a third party (thus, anyone with children in a fraternity or that are throwing parties had better be sure that minors are not being served).

STEPS THAT SOCIAL HOSTS CAN TAKE TO ENSURE THAT THEY MAINTAIN IMMUNITY FROM THIRD PARTY LAWSUITS 

Even though Arizona’s social host statute is very protective of employers and other social hosts, it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to alcohol.  If you elect serve alcohol at this year’s holiday party, here are a tips to reduce or avoid potential exposure:

  • Have employees sign a pre-party written acknowledgement that attending the party is purely voluntary, not a work event, and that they will drink and behave responsibly at the party.
  • Ensure your employees can get home safely from the party.  For example, consider providing Uber/cab fare, designated drivers, or a car or shuttle service, to ensure employees make it home safely.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol at your event and limit the amount of alcohol per attendee.
  • Serve food and plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Hire professional bartenders and make sure they check IDs to prevent underage drinking.  Bartenders can also help in determining when someone has had too much to drink.
  • Do not have employees serve alcohol.
  • Ensure that your insurance covers liquor liability.  If it does not, consider purchasing single-event insurance (perform a cost/benefit analysis).
  • Keep the entertainment clean, professional, and non-controversial.

CONCLUSION

If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming holiday party, contact Bourque Law Firm.  Otherwise, Happy Holidays!  Oh, and don’t be a knucklehead on your Uber ride home, or you may end up without a job and on ABC news, like this Taco Bell executive did after some heavy partying: