Ontario English Catholic Teachers

Alcohol Abuse


A Unit President calls about a teacher whose intoxication at school has been witnessed by other staff and school administration. There is evidence that the teacher is failing to complete some core teaching duties. The Principal has called a meeting with the member and the Unit President. The Unit President wonders:

  • What can I do to help the member?
  • What are the employer’s responsibilities
  • What are the member’s responsibilities?
  • What are the ramifications if the member does not admit to having a problem and subsequently, the problem continues to affect the member’s work?


The Unit President is advised to attend the meeting with the teacher to ascertain the intentions of the board. With the teacher’s permission, the president should check the teacher’s personnel file to see if there are previous reports of intoxication. Unless the teacher is ready to admit to having a problem, the teacher cannot be forced to accept the board’s assistance plan. The teacher should be informed that non-acceptance of the plan may result in discipline. The board will be required to provide proof of the teacher’s failure to complete core duties.

Once the teacher admits to alcohol abuse, it is incumbent on everyone involved to ensure that teacher receives treatment as quickly as possible. The abuse must be treated as a disability and the employer has an obligation to accommodate that employee. The member should be directed to seek medical attention from the family doctor, and confidential counselling through the board’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The employee must make every effort to undergo treatment for the condition.


This type of case requires action from both the employee and employer. The employer has responsibility under the Ontario Human Rights Code to accommodate an employee to the point of undue hardship. The employee must make a bona fide effort to undergo treatment, which means providing some proof to the employer of having participated, and have received a return to work note from the attending medical practitioner.

Failure to admit to the abuse or addiction creates a problem, especially if intoxication causes poor performance. This could lead to parental complaints, as well as possible discipline up to and including dismissal.