DOJ Issues Guidance on Opioid Addiction and the ADA
On April 5, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can protect individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) and other drug addictions from discrimination.
The ADA is a federal law that prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals based on disability.
Drug Addiction as a Disability Under the ADA
The DOJ’s guidance explains that individuals with OUD typically qualify for ADA protection because drug addiction is a physical or mental impairment that often substantially limits one or more major life activities. Individuals in recovery from drug addiction may also qualify for ADA protection if they would be limited in a major life activity without treatment or services to support recovery.
Exception for Current Illegal Use of Drugs
The ADA’s protections do not apply if an individual is engaged in the “current illegal use of drugs.” This is generally defined as illegal use occurring recently enough to justify a reasonable belief that this use is current or that continued use is a real and ongoing problem. The definition does not include the use of a prescribed medication under the supervision of a licensed health care professional.
The DOJ guidance clarifies that employers may implement reasonable policies or procedures, including drug testing, designed to ensure individuals are not engaging in current illegal drug use.
Preventing discrimination based on drug addiction is a key part of the DOJ’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
Additional articles from the May 2022 edition of the Univest Employee Benefits Newsletter:
- Cybercrime and Benefits Plans
- Dear HR – ADA Implications of Extended Medical Leaves
- Sick Workers Should Stay Home
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