Is Coffee My Friend or My Foe?

May 20, 2014

As a labor negotiator, I rely upon coffee to help me through the long days and long evenings that often occur when negotiating a new labor agreement. I have come to hold coffee in highest esteem as my best friend. I recently read that coffee may deter the chemicals that are responsible for memory loss although the tests have only been taken on the brains of mice and not men. Let’s hope that coffee has the same impact on the human brain; I may offer my brain as a test subject based upon the amount of coffee I consume every day!

I have also recently learned that coffee may become a “foe.” The newest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSM-5) recently was issued and “caffeine withdrawal” has been identified as a new medical disorder. The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are fatigue, headache, and difficulty focusing. I can see an individual who is not performing well in his position now argue that he has difficulty focusing because he suffers from caffeine withdrawal. This would apparently occur if an individual is used to caffeine in coffee as a mild stimulant but suffers withdrawal from the inability to get caffeine through coffee and suffers in work, sleep and whatever they need to do.

By being recognized as its own mental disorder, an argument could be made that an individual suffers from a disability created by the notion of caffeine withdrawal. Wisconsin employers may also be subject to an additional claim if they take discipline against an employee that is having trouble focusing on their job duties because the use of coffee would be considered a lawful product and thereby protected under the use of lawful products protection in the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

It is too early to tell whether this will become a new defense for employees who are being considered for discharge from employment but maybe we should all carefully measure how much coffee we drink each day in order to determine whether or not we will have either the positive effects or the negative effects of coffee.

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