Employees In Recovery from Opioid Use, the EEOC and the Workplace


Author: Mark T. Wassell

Originally published in October 2020, as part of a "Tips" webinar

Copyright © 2020 Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C.

Technical Assistance Documents Regarding Opioids

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two technical assistance documents on August 5, 2020, addressing accommodation issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for employees who use opioid medications or may be addicted to opioids.

The stated purpose of both technical assistance documents is to “provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law.”

The EEOC defines “opioids” as prescription drugs such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, and illegal drugs like heroin. This definition also includes buprenorphine and methadone, which can be prescribed to treat opioid addiction in a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program.

Opioid Disorder/Addiction as a Disability

Persons addicted to drugs, but who are no longer using drugs illegally and are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been rehabilitated successfully, are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction.

Employees who are in recovery or rehabilitation may be required to meet the same standards of performance and conduct that are set for other employees.

Reasonable Accommodation Because of an Opioid Addiction

A reasonable accommodation is some type of change in the way things are normally done at work, such as a different break or work schedule (e.g., scheduling work around treatment), a change in shift assignment, or a temporary transfer to another position.

An employer never has to lower production or performance standards, eliminate the essential functions of a job, pay for work that is not performed, or excuse illegal drug use on the job as a reasonable accommodation.


Author: Mark T. Wassell

Originally published in October 2020, as part of a "Tips" webinar

Copyright © 2020 Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C.