A measure sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora which is designed to protect public employees who are earnestly trying to help themselves deal with an addiction or disorder by seeking treatment or help through their employee assistance program has been signed into law.
“Employee assistance programs are designed to help employees resolve problems which may affect their work performance – anything from marital problems and alcohol and drug abuse, to compulsive gambling and financial problems,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “This law is designed to protect public employees from facing retaliation from their employer if they seek help and make a good faith effort to undertake treatment for their problems. At the same time, it was carved out with fairness in mind so that employers can still take the necessary recourse should an employee not make a good faith effort to better themselves.”
Specifically, the law (S-2562/A-1068) prohibits a public employer from taking any action against an employee, including termination, because the employee or one of their dependents has obtained counseling, referrals, treatment or other services from an employee assistance program.
Gusciora noted that, the law is not an attempt to give employees with problems a shield to use preemptively against disciplinary action. The law allows a public employer to take action against an employee in instances where the employee was referred to an employee assistance program due to job performance-related issues and the employee did not make a good faith effort to comply with the program’s recommendations.
The law also requires that information regarding services provided to an employee or their dependent through an employee assistance program remain confidential, unless an employee provides a written waiver. However, if the employee accepts a referral by the public employer for assistance during normal working hours with pay, the employer is entitled to know whether the employee has kept the appointment and the length of time of the appointment. There is also an exemption to the confidentiality requirement in cases where there is substantial risk of imminent death or serious bodily injury or suspected child abuse or neglect.