Hungover at work? ‘Tis the season
It doesn’t get much worse. You drank too much the night before, and now you have to handle an eight-hour workday.
Sure, it’s a horrible situation for you, but it’s not easy on the people around you either, especially your boss.
According to labor lawyer David Lichtenberg with Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill, they get their most hangover-related inquiries from employers during the colder months, thanks to the holidays and the Super Bowl.
“It’s a common thing that a lot of employers have to deal with across every industry,” Lichtenberg said. “It doesn’t target white collar workers more than blue collar workers, or vice versa.”
Most employers, though, need to tread lightly when a situation like this presents itself.
In certain industries where there’s driving involved, or the operation of heavy machinery, employers can come right out and address the hangover issue. But in other areas, such as a routine office environment, bosses need to be much more careful with how they approach the situation.
“I would treat it the same as I would if someone came in with the flu,” Lichtenberg said.
His advice to employers – don’t mention alcohol or the possibility of a drinking problem. Assuming someone has that type of issue can create legal liability.
“If someone’s not doing their job, tell them they’re not doing their job,” Lichtenberg explained. “Be factual, and tell them what the impact of their behavior is on the workplace.”
Terminating an employee for this reason is certainly acceptable, he noted, as long as an employer can link a worker’s actions to a decrease in output.
According to a study released in October by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010, due to reduced workplace productivity, crime and health care.