In some cases, yes. We all know that drugs and alcohol can cause serious problems for employers. It can cause
a drop in productivity,
an increase in absenteeism, and
an increase in worker’s compensation and medical claims.
Legal Drug Use
With alcohol, an employee in California cannot be fired for using alcohol on their own time, or technically even for alcoholism. They can, however, be terminated for using alcohol during work hours or for their decreased work performance.
As an employee, you may be prescribed medications for an illness or injury, or are maybe taking something over the counter. Usually, employers feel this is none of their concern unless it affects job performance.
If an employee takes a prescription medication that makes them unsafe in the workplace can they be fired?
State and federal disability laws limit what actions can be taken. How the employee will be handled depends on a lot of different factors and whether the employee suffers from a disability.
With regard to marijuana, as of 2024, employers may no longer penalize employees – or disqualify job applicants – for using marijuana outside of work. There are exceptions for people in building and construction as well as for jobs requiring a federal background clearance. (Learn more about Assembly Bill 2188).
In the case of other illegal drugs, state and federal disability laws do not come into play. The employer can take whatever action they deem appropriate pursuant to their company guidelines. This can range from
- a reprimand to
- a requirement to
- get counseling, to termination.