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. It also requires businesses that are open to the public and state and local governments to make their facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
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 of 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 in the absence of treatment or services to support recovery.
The ADA’s protections do not apply if an individual is engaged in “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 have reasonable policies or procedures, including drug testing, designed to ensure individuals are not engaging in current illegal drug use.
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