ALCOHOLISM AND ERAL WORK
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The policy *
The progri' f *
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People with drinking problems are expen-
sive employees-in terms of absenteeism, poor
workmanship and costly errors in judgment.
Federal employees are no exception. A 1970
study by the Government Accounting Office
estimated that, in terms of payroll losses alone,
alcoholism costs the Government from 275
million to 550 million dollars a year.*
Alcoholic employees are often very valu-
able employees. Because alcoholism is a pro-
gressive illness, it often doesn't become a real
problem on the job until after an employee
has been working for several years. By this
time, his value, in training and experience, is
just being realized. Unless he is rehabilitated,
all that potential is wasted.
A Matter of
Dollars and Sense...
To help its employees help themselves,
and to reduce the losses chalked up to alco-
holism every year, the Government has imple-
mented the Federal Civilian Employee Alco-
holism Program. Although it may seem some-
what cold-blooded to discuss a chronic and
sometimes fatal illness in terms of dollars and
cents, the fact that the alcoholism program
makes good sense financially gives added as-
surance that it will receive continuous long
range support from agency managers. The
Alcoholism Program is not a "bleeding heart"
operation made up of nothing more than good
intentions. It has built-in strength because the
stakes are high for both employer and em-
ployee. For the Federal Government, the
projected cost savings of $135 million to $280
million a year are a powerful incentive to
action. And for employees with drinking prob-
lems, who are offered a chance for help as an
alternative to the ultimate possibility of losing
their jobs, the program is tough enough to have
a real chance of success.
*This figure is based on an alcoholism rate of from 4% to
8% and on the basis of a 25% salary loss. Many authorities
feel the 25% salary loss is a conservative figure.
- -- I.
The Policy on
As far as the Government is concerned,
your decision to drink or not to drink is your
personal business. However, when your use of
alcohol interferes, directly or indirectly, with
your work, your agency will take action in the
form of nondisciplinary procedures aimed at
rehabilitation. If acceptable work performance
doesn't come about, the agency's regular dis-
ciplinary procedures will be used.
Alcoholism is a treatable illness. If you
have a problem with alcohol, you will receive
the same consideration and offer of assistance
which you would receive with any illness. Medi-
cal records involving your drinking problem
will be kept in the same confidence as any
other medical records. Sick leave will be
granted for rehabilitation and treatment.
As with any other illness, the emphasis is
on prevention and early identification. You are
encouraged, if you feel you may be in the early
stages of an alcohol problem, to contact your
agency coordinator for counseling and informa-
tion on a confidential basis.
You cannot be denied employment solely
on the grounds of prior drinking problems.
Job security or opportunities for promotion
can't be jeopardized by your asking for coun-
seling or referral assistance. (Some sensitive
positions are excluded, among them positions
with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Fed-
eral Bureau of Investigation and the National
The Government policy on alcoholism has
been spelled out in detail in the Federal Per-
How Agency Programs
Federal agencies and departments operate
their own programs and services for the pre-
vention and treatment of alcoholism among
civilian employees. Although all programs are
set up under general Civil Service Commission
guidelines, they vary a good deal, depending
upon particular agencies' organization and
needs. For example: the programs at installa-
tions where there are medical units operate dif-
ferently from ones where medical facilities are
non-existent. And programs in agencies where
large numbers of employees belong to labor
unions will include participation on the part of
Who Does What?
Although the programs do vary consider-
ably, the following step-by-step description
may give you a general idea of how the pro-
1. If you have a drinking problem, sooner
or later your supervisor* will notice that your
work performance and attendance record are
falling off. The problem might show up in de-
creased efficiency, a high number of un-
scheduled days off or behavior which causes
poor morale among the people you work with
-just to name a few specific possibilities.
2. It is not the supervisor's responsibility
to diagnose your problem, but only to document
deteriorating work performance, and proceed
on the basis of what he sees. At the same time,
it is his responsibility not to cover up or ignore
your shortcomings on the job.
3. At this point, it's up to you. You may
accept help in identifying and treating your
problem or you can try to improve your per-
formance without outside help. If you do show
improvement, the supervisor will go no further.
4. If you decide that counseling would
help, your supervisor will put you in touch
with the person in your installation who has
been designated as the contact point for
people with possible drinking problems.
5. A period of evaluation will follow. It is
difficult to be specific about what steps are in-
volved in this period, because the resources
vary so greatly from one location to another.
If you work where there is a medical unit, or
if there is one at a cooperating agency nearby,
those facilities will be used. Or you may talk
with a private doctor. Some agencies have
counselors available among their own em-
ployees, and some arrange for counseling to
take place at community facilities.
The aim of the evaluation period, regard-
less of the resources used, is to help you
decide whether or not you have a problem with
alcohol and what you can do about it.
The supervisor in this procedure is described as a non-
alcoholic male for brevity's sake. This is not to imply that
supervisors are never afflicted with alcoholism, for they are!
We can assume that all supervisors are in turn supervised
by higher level supervisors, whose responsibility to subordi-
nates is the same at all levels in an organization. All super-
visors are not male, and some supervisors have drinking
problems. Alcoholism is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
6. If alcohol is your problem, you will be
referred to places in your community which
specialize in helping people with drinking
problems. If you need hospitalization, or other
treatment which means you must take leave,
sick leave will be granted. You are responsible
for the costs of treating your problem, as you
are for any illness. Your Federal Employees
Health Benefits Plan may help to cover the
costs and you may be eligible for some help
from VA facilities if you are a veteran.
If hospitalization is not necessary, you will
be referred to one of the following: a local
chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, an alcohol-
ism information center sponsored by organiza-
tions like the National Council on Alcoholism,
a private physician who is interested in working
with alcoholics, clinics run by State or local
governments, or other independent organiza-
7. The long range prospects for keeping
your job still depend on improving and main-
taining your job performance. Although the
program's emphasis is on rehabilitation, you
will be subject to the normal disciplinary pro-
cedures in your agency if you don't show im-
provement on the job. In some instances, the
ultimate result is separation; in certain medi-
cally indicated cases, disability retirement is
The message, in a nutshell, is this: prob-
lem drinking is either an illness or a symptom
of an illness. If you do have a drinking prob-
lem, it is Government policy to help you re-
habilitate yourself. However, if you are not
able to recover to the point where you are able
to do your work, separation or premature re-
tirement are very real alternatives.
As one alcoholic rehabilitation specialist
in private industry has said, "The company can
only help you as long as you work for the
company." That goes for the Government as
OF DRINKER ARE YOU?
Do you think and talk about drinking often?
Do you drink more now than you used to?
Do you sometimes gulp drinks?
Do you often take a drink to help you relax?
Do you drink when you are alone?
Do you sometimes forget what happened while
you were drinking?
Do you keep a bottle hidden somewhere-at
home or at work-for quick pick-me-ups?
Do you need a drink to have fun?
Do you ever just start drinking without really
thinking about it?
Do you drink in the morning to relieve a hang-
If you answered "yes" to any of these ques-
tions, you may want to do some serious think-
ing about the way you use alcohol.
" *.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1972 0-467-490
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08 134 777 4