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When your employee has a Drinking Problem: The HR Perspective on Tiger Wood’s Dilemma

By all accounts, Tiger Woods was having a great year.  He won the Masters in one of the greatest comebacks the sporting world has ever witnessed.  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and after well documented accounts of a turbulent personal life, he finally seems genuinely content in his relationship with his girlfriend, Erica Herman.  On May 14 the sparkle of 2019 seemed to lose some of its luster when the parents of Nicholas Immesberger filed suit against the pro golfer and his girlfriend for wrongful death.        

Immesberger was an employee at Wood’s Florida restaurant, The Woods.  The up-scale sports bar’s Manager is Erica Herman, Wood’s girlfriend.  Woods and his girlfriend were named in the lawsuit since it is argued, they had prior knowledge of Immesberger’s struggles with alcohol.  Despite his serious and documented issues, Immesberger was allowed to drink and subsequently be over served at The Woods after his shifts and, according to the filing, was even encouraged to drink during his shifts.  Immesberger died in December of 2018 when he crashed his car after becoming intoxicated at Wood’s restaurant.  Spencer Kuvin, an attorney for Immesberger’s parents, the Plaintiffs in the case, stated that Woods and Herman “..fueled (their son’s) addiction with more alcohol instead of help.”

Alcoholism Among Employees

The story is getting a lot of press because it is tied to Tiger Woods, but alcoholism among employees, and the liability associated with over serving patrons is a common issue that many business owners face. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 14 million Americans or 1 in every 13 adults are alcoholics.  As a business owner it is hard to know where the line between an employees’ personal problems and work rules should be drawn. 

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), who serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the Federal Government address the issue of managers dealing with alcoholism among employees in their handbook:

“Your role is not to diagnose the alcohol problem but to exercise responsibility in dealing with the performance or conduct problem, hold the employee accountable, refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Policy, and take any appropriate disciplinary action. Your role in dealing with alcoholism in the workplace is crucial. The most effective way to get an alcoholic to deal with the problem is to make the alcoholic aware that his or her job is on the line and that he or she must get help and improve performance and conduct, or face serious consequences, including the possibility of losing his or her job.”

Work Life Reference Materials, Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors, opm.gov

What do I do if I have a toxic employee?

Mishandling of an addiction issue on the part of a business owner can result in significant financial loss and embarrassment. In Tiger Wood’s case, it has even resulted in death.   Dealing with employees and addiction problems can be difficult, especially when business owners may not even now their employees are dealing with addiction issues.    Give us a call today if you are dealing with an employee with an addiction problem or want to safeguard your business from addiction problems in the future.  We can help you create policy and procedures that will create a “healthy” culture for your business to thrive.  We will steer you away from practices that could exacerbate addiction issues in the future.

[Read More: Toxic Employee Consultation]

Human Resources 4 Small Businesses can help.
Contact us or give us a call today at 505.715.5700

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