Category Archives: Leave Issues

Voluntary Leave Policy, Quirky Question # 35

Quirky Question # 35:

I am the HR Director for a large company with operations in Alaska.  Our Alaska-based employees work on a rotating schedule of two weeks on / two weeks off.  Many of these employees commute from the Outside (Lower 48) for their two-week rotations.  During their rotation, these employees live in company provided housing and are transported to the work site via company provided transportation.  For job safety reasons, our company has a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.  Employees who report to work with a detectable level of drugs or alcohol in their system are terminated.

Recently, one of our new mechanical engineers from the Outside showed up at the bus stop intoxicated.  At his co-workers’ urging he wisely opted not to get on the bus and simply did not report to work.  The next day, he advised his supervisor that he may have a problem with alcohol and that he would be seeking treatment when he returned home at the end of the week.  He is now advising us that he cannot return to the work site for his next rotation due to his doctor’s advice.

This employee does not yet qualify for FMLA leave, but our drug and alcohol policy does encourage employees to seek assistance for drug or alcohol abuse and indicates that employees who come forward voluntarily will not be penalized.  We obviously want to encourage employees to get help if they need it, and we are willing to let this employee forgo his next rotation, but how much leave (if any) are we required to give him?  We are already short staffed as it is and his absence is making things even more difficult.

[Set forth below is our analysis of Quirky Question # 35.  As this was a question submitted to the employment attorneys in our Anchorage, Alaska office, our colleagues there provided the analysis.  The response below was furnished by Wendy E. Leukuma.  Wendy is a 1999 graduate of Northern Michigan University and a 2002 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law.  If you would like to communicate with her about the question and analysis below, or any other employment law issue, her direct line is 907.257.7826 and her email address is leukuma.wendy@dorsey.com.  Wendy’s resume is displayed at www.dorsey.com.] Answer→