How Courts Treat Reasonable Accommodations for Addiction

p style=”font: 13px/16px Calibri, Candara, Segoe, ‘Segoe UI’, Optima, Arial, sans-serif; color: #444444; text-transform: none; text-indent: 0px; letter-spacing: normal; word-spacing: 0px; white-space: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;”>One of the more controversial aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is how it applies to individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. In the field of psychiatry, substance addiction is considered a mental disorder. As such, it is considered a disability under the ADA under certain circumstances. However, for obvious reasons, courts tend to be very careful in how they apply the ADA and other related acts to recovering addicts.

The ADA does not prevent an employer from firing an employee who comes to work intoxicated or is otherwise actively abusing drugs and alcohol. However, it may protect those with a history of substance abuse and those undergoing rehabilitation:

  • Employers may not discriminate against individuals who have a history of substance abuse but are not actively using drugs at the time.
  • Employers may not discriminate against individuals who have stopped using drugs and are receiving rehabilitative treatment.
  • Employers may not discriminate against individuals they incorrectly believe to be substance abusers.

In addition, an employee or applicant must be otherwise qualified for the job in question. The ADA specifically allows employers to hold recovering addicts to the same standards of attendance and performance as other workers. As such, even an employee who falls into one of the protected categories above may still be terminated for frequent absenteeism without violating the ADA, and a current user does not gain automatic protections simply by entering a rehabilitation program. Nevertheless, if you feel you have been unjustly terminated because of a past history of drug or alcohol use, it may be worthwhile to speak to anemployment discrimination attorney.

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