Should Sex Addiction Be a Disability in the Workplace?

Will a compulsive sexual behavior disorder protect employment?

Posted Jun 27, 2018

Source: Pixabay

For many years, proponents of the concept of sex addiction have argued that it is equivalent to drug and alcohol use disorders. Unfortunately, most scientists, researchers and sexual therapists have disagreed with them, pointing to the limited scientific support for sex addiction, and the extensive data revealing that these types of sexual behavior problems are most often symptomatic of other, pre-existing issues, such as moral conflicts, anxiety problems, or paraphilias.

However, while the American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly rejected a diagnosis related to the concept of sex addiction, the World Health Organization recently included a diagnosis labeled as “Sexual Compulsive Behavior Disorder” in the ICD-11. Now, it may take some time for this update of the ICD to be adopted in the United States but advocates for sex addiction are celebrating what they see as validation for their arguments. 

Source: Pixabay

If Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder is adopted and included in the U.S. health industry, one of the downstream consequences will be the attempt to use this diagnosis in courts and legal employment proceedings. In other words, people (mostly men) who get in trouble for sex-related behaviors at work will attempt to employ this new diagnosis in order to protect their jobs and avoid responsibility for their sexual behaviors.

You might think, “No way! That would be laughed out of court.” But in fact, there’s lots of precedent:

  • Chris Sevier is a disbarred attorney who has filed multiple lawsuits related to his claims of porn addiction. He argues that his sexual disorder, caused by porn on his computer, makes him unable to develop a relationship with other people. He filed multiple lawsuits attempting to gain the “right” to marry his porn-filled computer. Sounds a bit off the wall, right? Well, Sevier is also the architect of the many recent “porn is a public health crisis” legislative efforts in many states across the country. Surprisingly, this man has considerable influence within conservative groups who oppose gay marriage and want to limit access to pornography
  • In my home state of New Mexico, an obstetrician was accused of violating ethics and legal boundaries by having sex with multiple patients. His license to practice medicine was called into question. He ultimately was able to keep his license, and keep treating patients, after being sent to sex addiction treatment. 
  • In fact, a great many professional licensing boards, which verse the licensure of physicians, psychologists, lawyers and pharmacists, have viewed sex addiction as a legitimate reason to allow professionals accused of sexual misconduct to retain their licensure. A paper I published a couple of years ago reviewed countless such cases. 
  • Last year, Harvey Weinstein fled to sex addiction treatment after he was accused of a long string of sexual violations. He was recently indicted in New York, but there’s no word yet whether a diagnosis of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder will be part of his defense.
  •  In 2011 in Brazil, a 36-year-old accountant was legally granted the right to close her office door, watch porn at work, and masturbate, due to a diagnosis of hypersexuality.  
Source: Pixabay

Just this month, a Canadian online magazine dedicated to human resources and employment matters explored the question, “Should HR consider ‘sex addiction’ a disability in the workplace?” The article discussed a tech employee fired for going to a sex site while at work, who then sued his former employers claiming he had sex addiction, allegedly as a result of Vietnam war-related PTSD. The HR experts suggest that while sex addiction isn’t currently a protected status, “the law is constantly evolving” in this area, and this could change. A few days later, the ICD-11 inclusion of CSBD was announced, suggesting that this “legal evolution” may happen faster than most thought.

As an administrator and employer, I’ve long worked under the approach that alcohol or drug-related problems can protect an individual from losing their employment, but only if the employer is made aware of them BEFORE an individual gets caught. If CSBD makes its way into HR law and policy, I assume the same would be true. In order to protect your job from termination, if you get caught engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviors at work, you would have to put your employer on notice that you have CSBD BEFORE you get charged with those sexual problems. However, this seems unlikely, as it would, first, create a conflict between the legal demand to provide a safe work environment to people who don’t want to experience sexual inappropriateness or harassment, and two, most claims of sex addiction only come up AFTER a person gets in trouble. 

If Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder is adopted in the United States health system, these issues WILL be wrestled with in the courts, and in administrative proceedings related to employment policy. And the conflict between whether this diagnosis is legitimate, or a convenient excuse, will be on full display.