The EEOC has issued guidance on workplace considerations under the Americans With Disabilities Act—which applies to both the federal and private sector workforces—regarding employees who take opioids, both with a prescription and illegally.
The ADA allows employers to fire and employee and take other employment actions based on illegal use of opioids, even if there are no “performance or safety problems” and employers further may disqualify employees if required by law, it says.
However, if an employee isn’t disqualified by federal law and opioid use is legal, an employer cannot automatically disqualify an employee because of opioid use without considering if there is a way for the employee “to do the job safely and effectively,” it adds.
An employee who is taking opioids by prescription further may ask for a “reasonable accommodation” such as a change in work scheduling if the medical condition that is causing pain qualifies as a “disability” under the ADA. “However, an employer never has to lower production or performance standards, eliminate essential functions (fundamental duties) of a job, pay for work that is not performed, or excuse illegal drug use on the job as a reasonable accommodation,” it says.
Addiction to illegal opioid use “is itself a diagnosable medical condition that can be an ADA disability” that may qualify for a reasonable accommodation, but only at the employer’s discretion, it adds.