I have new guidance for employees struggling with substance abuse issues during this pandemic


(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

Technically, the new guidance is from the EEOC. But, since this is my blog, I’ll take credit for sharing it.

Before I detail this new guidance, I’ve got some other big EEOC news! That is, several of my friends from the Philadelphia District Office will be joining me for the next Zoom HR Lunchtime Happy Hour Spectacular on Friday, August 14, 2020, at Noon EDT.

We’re going to demystify the EEOC’s mediation program, including details about the new EEOC Mediation Pilot Program. If you’re currently facing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination or just clutching your pearls because you expect that one may be coming down the pike soon, please join us!

You can register here.

EEOC Guidance on Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees

If you have employees that are using opioids, are addicted to opioids, or were addicted to opioids in the past, you may have some Americans with Disabilities Act obligations. Specifically, the ADA may require providing reasonable accommodations and other protections to enable these individuals to perform the essential functions of their jobs — even during this COVID-19 pandemic.

But, the law does not protect the current use of illegal drugs (think: unprescribed medicine). So, rather than accommodate, you could fire (or refuse to hire) that individual drug user.

The tougher issues involve employee performance and safety, such as:

  • What if you reasonably believe that an employee’s opioid use, history of opioid use, or treatment for opioid addiction could interfere with safe and effective job performance?
  • Must an employer reasonably accommodate prescription use of opioids?
  • What happens when an employee with a past addiction to opioids relapses?

The EEOC has answered these questions and more in this new guidance.

BONUS: If you are a healthcare provider and want additional information on how you can help current and former patients who have used opioids stay employed, check out this additional resource from the EEOC.

DOUBLE BONUS: Job Accommodation Network has some fantastic resources on drug addiction and the possible option of using last chance agreements for employees that abuse drugs or alcohol.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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