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Employment Development Department
Employment Development Department

Voluntary Quit VQ 270

Irresistible Compulsion to Use or Consume Intoxicants

This Section discusses voluntary quit determinations that are caused by the claimant's irresistible compulsion to use or consume intoxicants. Where the separation involves alcohol or drug use, but the claimant does not have an irresistible compulsion to use intoxicants, refer to the appropriate section reflecting the reason for quit.

A. General

Unemp. Ins. Code Section 1256.5(a)(2) provides in part that a claimant is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation if:

He or she otherwise left his or her most recent employment for reasons caused by an irresistible compulsion to use or consume intoxicants, including alcoholic beverages.

In Jacobs v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board a 1972 appellate court case, the claimant was discharged for actions caused by alcohol-induced behavior. That decision requires the Department to first determine whether the claimant had the capacity to abstain from using intoxicants, before examining the other aspects of the case.

The Department must rely on the judgment of a "competent professional" to determine whether the claimant was able to abstain from using intoxicants. Only the "competent professional" is authorized to diagnose an "irresistible compulsion" to use intoxicants, i.e., an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

B. Competent Professional Advice

For the purposes of Section 1256.5, the term "competent professional" includes physicians or authorized treatment program administrators.

C. Treatment Facility

In deciding whether a given facility is a qualified "treatment facility," the following guidelines shall be considered

D. Treatment Program

In each county, there is a designated program administrator for alcohol and/or drug abuse treatment programs. Phone numbers for these programs are located in the government services Easy Reference List in the front of the phone book. On questionable cases regarding the authenticity of a given treatment facility or program, the interviewer may seek the assistance of the county program administrator.

Additionally, for the purposes of determining eligibility under Section 1256.5, Alcoholics Anonymous is considered a "treatment program" only when prescribed by a "competent professional."

In P-B-465, the claimant, an admitted alcoholic, was discharged for actions resulting from an irresistible compulsion to consume alcohol. After filing a claim for benefits the claimant's physician certified the claimant had "started AA program," and was continuing in that program. The claimant was determined ineligible under Section 1256.5 on the basis that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was not considered a "treatment program." In holding that AA is a "treatment program" and can be used to purge a Section 1256.5 disqualification, the Board stated:

Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961) contains the following definitions. The definition of "treatment" includes "the action or manner of treating." To "treat" includes "to seek cure or relief of (as a disease)". A "program" includes "a schedule or system under which action may be taken toward a desired goal."

In our opinion, Alcoholics Anonymous is a system by which action is taken toward the goal of causing an alcoholic to refrain from the use of alcohol and thereby relieve the disease of alcoholism. It is therefore a 'treatment program' for the condition of alcoholism . . . . Accordingly, we hold Alcoholics Anonymous is a 'treatment program' for the condition of alcoholism within the meaning of that code section.

Determinations related to Section 1256.5 which involve information about the claimant’s participation in a drug or alcohol treatment program are considered to be of a confidential nature. Such information may not be disclosed to any unauthorized person. Refer to FOM, Determinations for additional information.

E. Removal of Disqualification

Unemp. Ins. Code Section 1256.5(b) provides in part:

An individual disqualified under this section . . . is ineligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits under this part for the week in which the separation occurs, and continuing until he or she has performed service in bona fide employment for which remuneration is received equal to or in excess of five times his or her weekly benefit amount, or until a physician or authorized treatment program administrator certified that the individual has entered into and is continuing in, or has completed, a treatment program for his or her condition and is able to return to employment.

Therefore, a disqualification under Section 1256.5 can be purged by subsequent work and earnings, such as with any voluntary quit disqualification, or can be lifted by verification that the claimant has, subsequent to the week in which the separation occurred, entered into a treatment program for the addictive condition and is either continuing in or has completed the program and is able to return to work.

F. Claimant Notification

Section 1256.5(c) provides:

The department shall advise each individual disqualified under this section of the benefits available under Part 2 (commencing with Section 2601), and, if assistance in locating an appropriate treatment program is requested, refer the individual to the appropriate county drug or alcohol program administrator.

Thus, the determination interviewer is required to advise each claimant disqualified under Section 1256.5 of the availability of State Disability Compensation and, if requested, assist the claimant in locating a treatment program.