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Is your job doomed owing to your use of addicting drugs?

On Behalf of | Aug 13, 2020 | Employee Rights

We queried in a prior blog post whether an employer can fire a worker for drug use, especially for involvement with narcotic pain killers in the opioid family. Representative members of that group include OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, morphine, codeine and methadone.

People who expect an unqualified “yes” response to that question will be surprised.

In fact, a job outcome in any given scenario can depend upon a number of factors. An employee who is currently ingesting such drugs might not be doing so illegally in some instances. If that is the case, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that he or she may have the right to get reasonable accommodations and other protections under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Discussion of the topic might reasonably begin with the proposition that the ADA grants an employer license to terminate a worker who is using opioid drugs illegally.

That allowance obviously comes with a big “if,” given that opioids are often legally prescribed by care providers to individuals having medical conditions. If that is the case, and no federal law actually exists that requires worker termination for any drug use, company principals lack an unqualified termination right. Instead, they must reasonably consider if there is some avenue that allows for an affected employee to work efficiently and safely.

In other words, they must construe any addiction as a disability and see if it can be worked around via methods aimed at reasonable accommodation.

That is a case-specific analysis, and it can be complicated, with employers sometimes challenging workers. An employee who believes that his or her rights have been violated owing to a company’s refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation can contact a proven employment law legal team for counsel and diligent representation.


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