The EEOC released two new guidance documents for employers on handling opioid abuse and addiction in the workplace. The first, Use and Misuse of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees, is intended for employees and describes what is and is not a covered disability. This guidance document makes it clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect current illegal drug use. This means that employers can terminate an employee for a positive drug test or for illegal drug use, possession, etc. in the workplace. Employees, however, in treatment for opioid addiction or otherwise legally receiving opioids as treatment are protected from discrimination based on the use of the medication. In addition, the ADA protects employees from discrimination based on a past history of opioid addiction. Employers may still address any safety related concerns that might accompany an employee’s use of legal prescription opioids.
The second document, How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used or Misused Opioids Stay Employed is intended to help healthcare providers educate their patients on their employment rights. The healthcare providers may be called upon in the interactive process under the ADA to explain the opioid medication’s use and address safety concerns. Healthcare providers also play an integral role in helping employers understand the opioid treatment process and what will (or may) be required as a reasonable accommodation.