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THIS WEEK'S E-TIP: Interview Questions: Asking about Alcohol Use Q&A
Published by Personnel Policy Service, Inc.
"Your Policy and Compliance Experts Since 1972"
 
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THIS WEEK'S E-TIP: Interview Questions: Asking about Alcohol Use Q&A

Can you ask applicants about their alcohol consumption if they drink at a
dinner interview? The ADA does not specifically prohibit these
questions, but they can raise some disability issues. Find out a better
approach to this situation.
 
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THIS WEEK'S E-TIP: Interview Questions: Asking about Alcohol Use Q&A

Q: We recently took a candidate out for an interview dinner, and the
potential employee drank six beers over the course of the dinner. Can
we address the alcohol consumption and ask if alcohol is a problem for
him? The candidate has received wonderful references from various
sources, but we are concerned by what we observed.

A: Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not normally
protect against the mere asking about alcohol consumption, a direct
question inquiring if he has a problem with alcohol could be prohibited.
The ADA does not allow employers to ask applicants any questions
about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability; and alcoholism
can be considered a disability under the ADA.

Most likely you do not intend to ask him if he is an alcoholic (and the fact
that he drank six beers at dinner, by itself, does not support that
conclusion). However, any questions you do ask about alcohol use
could be interpreted as an attempt to determine whether he has a
disability, particularly if you ask if alcohol is a problem. Further, the
questions could be used as evidence to show that you regard him as
disabled under the ADA. This posture could lead to potential ADA claims
if you do not hire him.

In addition, these questions could raise state law protections. A few
states, including Colorado, Illinois, and Wisconsin, specifically prohibit
employers from taking any adverse employment action (such as not
hiring someone) based on their legal off-duty conduct. So, if you are in
those states and ask about off-duty drinking and then do not hire the
individual, it could be presumed that you are discriminating based on the
off-duty alcohol use.

Accordingly, it is more prudent not to discuss alcohol use other than to
explain your policies about alcohol (and drug) use on the job. A better
approach is to focus on his abilities, check into his work history and
references, and then make any final decisions based on these factors.
Of course, you can always consider your impressions from the dinner,
including the fact that your hiring managers considered the drinking of six
beers to be inappropriate behavior at a business function. Clearly, the
episode raises questions about the candidate's judgment and ability to
interact appropriately with potential colleagues.

The key point to this approach is that you are not questioning his alcohol
use on his private time, or whether he has a problem with alcohol.
Instead, you are looking at his behavior during the job interview, just as
you might be concerned about a person with poor manners or who spoke
too loudly.
 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ From Your HR Matters E-Tips Editors ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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Subscribers to the Personnel Policy Manual and HR Policy Answers on
CD can find more information on alcohol use and the ADA in Drugs,
Narcotics, and Alcohol, Chapter 809, notes 15 and 16. For more
information about applicants and medical inquiries, see Medical
Procedures
, Chapter 203, note 10.

Not a subscriber? If you would like to order one of our policy chapters,
go to: http://www.hrpolicyanswers.com.

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happy to help you.
 
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Information provided in HR Matters E-Tips is researched and reviewed
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