Alcoholism – the employee’s fault?


Is an employee eligible for continued payment of remuneration when unable to work, when the inability to work arises from alcoholism? Generally, the German Continuation Payment of Salary Act (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz, EFZG) provides for continued payment of salary for a certain period if the employee is not able to work without fault, eg in case of sickness.


In the case at hand, an employee was off sick due to alcoholism for over ten months following alcoholic intoxication. Prior to that, the employee participated in a couple of hospitalized withdrawal therapies. In the employer’s view, the employee was therefore not eligible to continued salary payment, as the relapse and the inability to work would have been his fault, in particular with regard to his prior therapies and the health education in this context.


The German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG) ruled on March 18, 2015 (docket number: 10 AZR 99/14) that alcoholism generally has to be considered as sickness and therefore not the employee’s fault, resulting in an entitlement to continued payment of salary. In the case of a relapse, it could, however, not be excluded that it could be due to the employee’s fault. Therefore, in the case of a relapse, a medical expert opinion can be presented in court. In the case at hand, however, the expert came to the conclusion that the relapse and the inability to work was not the employee’s fault due to his long-term and chronic alcoholism.