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EEOC Guidance: Opioids and Your Workforce in 2020

October 7, 2020 - minute read

The opioid crisis has long concerned employers, but the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have caused a resurgence. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest rise in opioid use has generated a public health crisis.

For businesses, the use of opioids by employees has been linked to increased safety risks, higher absenteeism, and hampered productivity—so many employers try and avoid opioid-related obstacles by issuing drug tests and instantly dismissing individuals with positive results. However, legal opioid use amongst employees is an inevitable reality and requires you to prepare for your obligations under the law.

In August, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took steps to clarify how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) affects opioid use among employees. With mental illness and physical health at the forefront of everyone’s mind, let’s review the latest EEOC documents and how they will influence compliance moving forward.

The EEOC’s Latest Guidance on Opioid Use

It goes without saying, but illegal use of opioid medications by any member of your workforce is not protected by the law. However, the EEOC’s “Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees” clarifies that the following individuals are protected from disability discrimination under the ADA:

  • Individuals using opioid medication lawfully;
  • Those who are in treatment for opioid addiction/receiving Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT); and
  • Those who have recovered from opioid addiction in the past.

If any of these apply to your employee, it may trigger reasonable accommodations and other protections. In addition, the document refines many of the rights already established under the ADA. Here are some of the key takeaways:

For more information regarding the role of healthcare providers’ roles, employees’ legal rights in the workplace, and guidance on reasonable accommodation requests or documentation procedures, see the EEOC’s second brief: “How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed.”

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Filed Under: Compliance HR News ADA Human Resources