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Opioid use and ADA Accommodations

On August 5, 2020, the EEOC issued two new documents: Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees (guidance for employees that use or have used codeine, oxycodone and other opioids) and “How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed (guidance for health care workers documenting opioid use). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides for reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. Opioid use and addiction may qualify an employee for protection under the ADA and reasonable accommodations such as time off for substance abuse group meeting and therapy sessions.

The first document explains that “the ADA allows employers to fire individuals for illegal opioid use, even if they do not exhibit performance or safety issues.” Further it clarifies that employers may not disqualify legal users from employment without evaluating possible accommodations.

The second document is a fact sheet that addresses how the health care professional may handle the request from an employer for documentation and help in determining reasonable accommodations. It explains in detail how the health care professional can assist the employee with asking for accommodations and how much medical information needs to be disclosed. Medical information provided to the employer regarding a disability is confidential.

If an employee believes he needs an accommodation, he should ask for one, and consult his company’s employee handbook for the proper procedure. If unsure of that policy, speak to the human resources manager or his supervisor.

Remember, with violations of rights involving the ADA, the EEOC handles most claims. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the violation, 300 days if the employer is also covered by a state or local employment discrimination law. Retaliation for contacting or filing an EEOC charge is illegal.

This information is a broad overview. If you have questions regarding ADA discrimination, seek the counsel of an attorney.


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