Do we have to hire an applicant who disclosed she is a recovering alcoholic?
Q: During an interview, a candidate mentioned that she recently completed an alcohol rehabilitation program. Could we get into any legal trouble if we decide not to hire this candidate?
A: If the reason you are choosing not to hire the applicant is purely because she is a recovering alcoholic, then that is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the applicant could bring a discrimination claim. However, if you’re choosing not to hire her because she is either not qualified to perform the duties of the position or isn’t the best candidate, then you can safely choose not to hire her. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and protects individuals, including recovering addicts and alcoholics, from discriminatory acts in the workplace. This includes hiring practices. Assess the applicant’s qualifications the same as you would anyone else (i.e. does she have the skill, experience, education, and other requirements required for the position?) and assess whether she can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. If she is the best candidate, then being a recovering alcoholic should not get in the way of hiring her.
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