Gambling at casinos and on sports events have been a part of the fabric of American life since long before employment laws existed. Unfortunately, the thrill of the bet can give way to a compulsive addiction that, left unchecked, can destroy an individual’s life. If you have a workplace of any size, it is likely that there is at least one employee who suffers in silence from gambling addiction.
In a large percentage of cases, this has no effect on the workplace environment. However, often gambling addictions give way to substance abuse, depression, and theft, all of which have serious implications on the workplace.
However, federal and state courts (in most states) have been very clear that gambling addictions are not disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act or most of the state corollaries. Despite the fact that the definition of “disability” has broadened over time, an employee is likely not going to be able to sustain an action for discrimination based upon a gambling addiction.
What should an employer do if an employee confesses an addiction to gambling? Well, obviously we recommend referring them to the myriad of support groups that address the underlying issue (1-800-GAMBLER being the most well-known). If the gambling addiction is accompanied by a disability that is recognized by state and federal law, that disability should be addressed. Beyond that, if the gambling addiction has led to bona fide performance issues, any discipline should be meted out at the discretion of the employer.