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Employment Development Department
Employment Development Department

Able and Available AA 270

Use of Intoxicants

This section discusses the eligibility of claimants who consume alcohol, drugs, or restricted narcotics.

A. General

Intoxication, whether involving alcohol, drugs or restricted narcotics, is clearly a deterrent to obtaining employment. If this condition is noted when an individual is claiming benefits, a potential eligibility issue may exist. Information regarding a claimant’s alcohol or drug induced behavior may be received from a variety of sources: from the claimant directly, from an employer who would have hired the claimant but for the apparent intoxication, or from a Job Service interviewer who withheld service due to the claimant’s condition, etc.

To determine whether the availability of a claimant is affected by use of intoxicants, it should first be determined, if possible, whether (1) the claimant’s condition is a temporary or isolated instance, or (2) the alcohol or drug use is habitual.

CAUTION: When faced with this issue two things must be understood by the interviewer:

  1. The Department has no basis or authority to determine an individual’s condition from a medical viewpoint.
  2. Prejudice against or tolerance of drug or alcohol use, must not influence the determination.

B. Temporary or Isolated Instance

Occasionally a claimant will report to a field office under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The degree of intoxication can vary from only the smell of alcohol on a claimant’s breath to inability to properly sign his or her name. Depending upon the substance which induced the intoxication, the claimant’s behavior may be belligerent, irrational, excitable, lethargic, evasive, nervous or disoriented. While we are not competent to judge the claimant’s condition from a medical standpoint, we can judge how this condition affects ability to work and availability for work.

If, based on the degree of intoxication and the claimant’s occupation, it is determined that the claimant’s condition precludes satisfactorily performing work for one-half of a full workday or more, a disqualification under Section 1253(c) may be appropriate.

However, it should be noted that physical appearance and behavior such as belligerence, irrationality, excitability, evasiveness, etc., may also be symptoms of physical or mental problems. Distinguishing the true cause of the behavior is necessary to determine what type of availability issue, if any, exists.

C. Habitual Alcohol or Drug Abuse

A substantially different approach must be taken when the claimant is an admitted alcoholic or drug addict who has a record of being separated from employment for chronic intoxication, or those individuals who may habitually report to the field office in a state of intoxication.

An irresistible compulsion to use or consume intoxicants is considered a medical condition. This affliction may vary from one degree to another, however, where the claimant’s illness has progressed to the point where the individual is completely unable to control his or her actions, or it has been established that the affliction adversely affects the person’s ability to work, it becomes necessary to examine the claimant’s eligibility for benefits. Any individual meeting the above criteria may be required to substantiate that they are able to work under the prevailing conditions of their particular occupation or for one which they are reasonably fitted to perform.

In situations where a claimant has recently quit or been discharged from employment due to alcohol or drug abuse, or has been incarcerated or hospitalized for this reason but contends the condition is under control, it may be necessary to require verification of his or her ability to work. Acceptable evidence to establish ability to work may be secured from a physician, psychiatrist, counselor, director, or administrator of public or private hospitals, halfway houses, maintenance programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and similar rehabilitation or therapy programs operated by public or private agencies.

Since irresistible compulsion to use or consume intoxicants is considered a medical condition, "good cause" may be established for some restrictions on availability. For example, "good cause" for restricting availability could be found for the alcoholic bartender who has recently completed a rehabilitation program and does not want to resume working as a bartender because of the temptation, or the drug addict who, for the same reason, no longer wants to work as a pharmacist in a drug store. However, as with any compelling restriction, the claimant must be ready and willing to accept suitable work, place no unreasonable restrictions on his or her availability, and be available to a substantial field of employment.