Many Georgia employees have struggled to overcome problems of substance abuse, which can devastate lives both at home and at work. But is it compensable time if you attend a 12- step program that is required as a condition of your employment?
Not according to a federal trial court in Kentucky, which ruled against an employee who was sent to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings by his employer during off- duty time as a stated requirement of his employment. The Court based its decision on an evaluation of who benefited the most from treatment-the Plaintiff, or the Defendant.
The case, Todd v. Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, 5:2009cv00347 (E.D. Kentucky, Dec. 17, 2009) was dealt with on the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
Todd is a police officer with LFUCG. He had blacked out while at home in 2006 after drinking alcohol and taking Ambien. After Todd’s wife’s 911 call, his police department (along with the fire department) took him to the hospital, where he spent the better part of a week drying out.
As a result of the hospitalization, Todd underwent a “fit for duty” examination by a staff psychiatrist, and was ordered to attend AA meetings, undergo random testing and other monitoring, have his prescription drug intake evaluated, and quit drinking alcohol, all in order to keep his job.
In a meeting with HR, Todd agreed to follow this program, agreeing that, “his continued employment as an officer with the … [LFUCG] Division of Police … [was] contingent upon the adherence to these recommendations for the duration of his career with this government.”
The police department apparently would not allow Todd to attend AA meetings while on the clock, so he attended them on his own time.
Todd’s argument in requesting to be compensated for his time was that attendance at these meetings and psychiatric evaluations was a condition of employment, and therefore compensable. The county’s argument was that “fit for duty” does not equate to a pre- condition or an existing condition for employment, any more than lifting weights does.
The Court agreed with the defendant, holding that the AA meetings were primarily for the benefit of Todd, and not a condition of employment. Basically, the Court said that the department would run just fine without him, if he started drinking again and got fired.
Not a pretty decision for employee rights or keeping the workplace sober.
We shall see what happens in appeal.
If you have been ordered to attend a 12- step program as a condition of your employment, you may yet have a case, depending on your circumstances. Please contact our office for a full evaluation of your case.