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Substance Abuse and Employment

Workplace Substance Abuse Regulations


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities in organizations that employ 15 or more employees. Similarly, section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes it unlawful for contractors and subcontractors with the Federal government to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both affect drug and alcohol policies.http://jobsearch.about.com/od/drugtests/ The following outlines aspects of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that relate to employees with drug and alcohol problems:

  • Employers can prohibit the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol in the workplace.
  • Testing for illegal use of drugs does not violate the ADA (but must meet state requirements).
  • Employers may discharge or deny employment to those who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against drug addicts who have a history of drug addiction or who are not currently using drugs and have been rehabilitated (or who are currently in a rehabilitation program).
  • Reasonable accommodation efforts, such as permitting time off for medical care, self-help programs, etc., must be extended to drug addicts who have been rehabilitated or who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  • An alcoholic may be determined an "individual with a disability" under the ADA.
  • Employers may discharge, discipline, or deny employment to alcoholics whose use of alcohol hinders job performance or behavior to the same extent that such actions would result in similar disciplinary action for other employees.
  • Employees using drugs and alcohol must meet the same standards of performance and behavior as other employees.
  • The ADA does not protect casual drug users. However, those with a record of addiction, or who are falsely deemed to be being addicts, are covered by the Act.

Related Articles: Employment Drug Tests

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