Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner and that can mean overindulging a bit. Prior to the pandemic, the Monday after was often known as National Football Hangover Day or “Super Sick Monday,” and in 2019, an estimated 17 million Americans were expected to call in sick. Even last year – when the pandemic resulted in fewer gatherings – millions were also expected to be staying home the day after the big game.
However, it isn’t just playing hooky that could be an issue. Law enforcement has ramped up efforts to crack down on drunk driving, and for many that could mean fines, jail time and even a loss of license. For clearance holders, it could result in problems including a future denial, should it involve a DUI.
As ClearanceJobs.com previously reported, a DUI is an issue when multiple citations have been received. In that case, the issue is less about the charges themselves and more related to a possible long-term issue with alcohol.
When Drinking Is a Problem
There are many good reasons not to drink. High levels of alcohol consumption can cause health problems, while even small volumes can impact sleep levels. Beyond the health issues, alcohol can impact job performance.
Missing work or showing up hung-over the day after the Super Bowl won’t likely win favor from your superiors, but an isolated incident usually isn’t a career killer.
The issue is when it isn’t so isolated and patterns occur. If instead of being a Monday morning quarterback and talking about Sunday’s games during the football season it turns into a feeling of a quarterback who was repeatedly sacked on Sunday and showing it is where it can become a problem!
The “Alcohol Consumption” criterion under the Adjudicative Guidelines For Determining Eligibility for Access To Classified Information affects many security clearance applicants, particularly those who have received alcohol counseling and those who have been involved in alcohol-related incidents, such as drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication.
However, alcohol is legal and its consumption, regardless of quantity, does not by itself trigger a security concern. Alcohol consumption becomes a concern when there has been:
- Alcohol-related incident or other evidence of impaired judgment or misconduct while under the influence of alcohol.
- Negative impact on work/school performance, finances, personal or professional relationships.
- Failure to comply with court-ordered alcohol education, evaluation, treatment, or abstinence.
- Diagnosis of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence by a qualified medical professional.
- Relapse after completion of an alcohol treatment program.
When is it a Security Concern?
Even as alcohol consumption is legal to those over 21-years-of-age in the United States, it becomes a security concern when an individual has a major alcohol-related incident. The most common issue that triggers a security clearance review is a recent alcohol-related traffic incident, such as being arrested for driving under the influence.
Another common issue is when it impacts job performance. Showing up to work every Monday hung-over would be seen as a problem.
The major security concern for federal agencies that evaluate security clearances is that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the use of questionable judgment or the failure to control impulses, both of which are not considered acceptable for purposes of access to classified information.
“Drinking alcohol, in and of itself, is completely legal and not an issue,” said Bradley P. Moss, Esq, an attorney specializing in litigation on matters relating to national security, federal employment and security clearance, and partner at the Washington, D.C., law office of Mark S. Zaid, P.C.
“Alcohol use becomes a problem if your consumption starts impacting your ability to do your job – including arriving to work drunk or too hung over to function – as well as if you become implicated in alcohol-related criminal matters, such as a DUI,” Zaid told ClearanceJobs.
Acknowledging that alcohol is an issue and providing evidence to show that it is being addressed, including through treatment, can help mitigate alcohol-related security concerns.
Don’t Avoid Treatment
Many employees may seek to conceal the problem, and even avoid treatment, for fear that if their alcohol problem becomes known, it may affect their security clearance. However, it is more likely to affect an individual’s clearance if he/she allows the problem to continue untreated.
“Being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder is an additional concern,” added Zaid. “Much of this can be mitigated with proper treatment, including, where needed, sobriety or at least reduced alcohol consumption.”
Simply put, when security clearance issues arise involving alcohol abuse or over-consumption, it is very important to take them seriously.