Can an employer mandate an open bar event

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer mandate an open bar event

I am an alcoholic and attended a mandatory
company trip. For three evenings all events were
open bar. I was prepared and did not drink at the
event , however , being there had triggered a serious
relapse that occurred shortly after I left the trip. I had
never asked for any type of daily accommodations
but have used FMLA to take LOA to seek treatment .
I need additional treatment at this point and am very
angry at my job. This is not the first time I’ve been
unable to handle their stressors. Please help

Asked on August 13, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If you were not an alcoholic, they could mandate attendence: the employer has broad discretion to determine what employees must do or attend. But an employer also has an obligation to make a "reasonable accommodation"--some change that is not too expensive or disruptive--to employee medical conditions or disabilities, including alcoholism, assuming that a medical doctor would if necessary certify you suffer from this (an employer can request doctor valididation of asserted medical conditions). It seems that reasonable accommodations would be to either let you not attend, or else make key/core events non-open-bar, reserve the open bar for certain additional, optional, or after hours networking, etc. events, and allow you to skip those particular events. Therefore, it appears that the employer has an obligation to not put you  in the presence of alcohol, given that (unless you are working for a distillary, brewery, etc.) alcohol is not necessary to a business function; if the employer will not do this, you may have a claim for disability-related discrimination or harassment, which you could bring before the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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