You might have seen something on the news or online recently about Charlie Sheen, or maybe one of your co-workers or friends mentioned some of the outlandish things Sheen has said in interviews recently. You might have thought, “Charlie Sheen? He’s still around?” Or maybe you know his hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men, so you know he hasn’t faded away into obscurity. (By some small coincidence, I threw on the 80s classic Lucas recently and watched a fresh-faced Sheen in one of his first movie roles.) At any rate, you might have been surprised that by his own admission he had done and was continuing to do the amount and kinds of drugs that only celebrities can do and continue to live.
Since I look at a diverse pile of news sites every day and I follow a diverse pile of people on Twitter, it’s been almost impossible for me to avoid the news that Sheen had some sort of meltdown in which he insulted various people involved with his TV show. His network subsequently fired him and he has gone on to great infamy with his comments about having tiger blood and living on a different plane of existence. Everyone wants to have a laugh at his expense, and Sheen has been only too willing to oblige. It seems clear to me that he is addicted to various drugs and has no apparent desire to seek help. The alternative is that he actually is some sort of genius whose words truly are beyond the common people’s understanding.
I think the former possibility is the more plausible theory. But if so, how can we justify laughing at a man who has serious problems and has just been fired from his job? There are deep problems with his scenario. Would we ever think of laughing at a co-worker in that situation, no matter how well he handled his addiction? I sure hope not.
In fact, in Canada at least Sheen would probably have a pretty good case for wrongful dismissal. The network clearly discriminated against him on the basis of disability—his addiction. His former employer might argue that he was insubordinate and had damaged the employment relationship, but his lawyers could fairly respond that he was under the influence of his addiction and that he needed accommodation, not discipline—and certainly not termination.
I don’t mean to be a scold. Many might argue that there is little to no harm in having a laugh at the expense of a man who clearly has the means to take care of himself and who still appears (arguably) to be in control of his actions. And that’s fine. But I’m certain that many have chosen to ignore the fact that this is a serious mental health issue, which in other instances would be cause for alarm rather than laughs.
Of course, this type of thing probably happens all the time in Hollywood. I can just imagine the type of protective language in all the employment contracts down there.
For your edification, look at The Human Resources Advisor for your jurisdiction for information on accommodating disabilities, specifically mental health issues. Also, check out HRinfodesk for a wide selection of articles on the issue of addiction in the workplace.
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor