Insights

Home > News & Insights > Insights > Alcoholism and the ADA

Share this on:   a b j c

Alcoholism and the ADA

Published by on June 15, 2009

A question after a recent speech about whether alcoholism is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prompts us to write a short post on the topic.  More after the break. ADA.gov (http://www.ada.gov/employmt.htm) has the following Q&A: Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA? Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not […]

A question after a recent speech about whether alcoholism is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prompts us to write a short post on the topic.  More after the break.

ADA.gov (http://www.ada.gov/employmt.htm) has the following Q&A:

Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA? Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

A.

The EEOC has this to say on its website about the ADA and alcohol abuse:  

  • Current illegal use of drugs is not protected by the ADA. You do not need to hire or retain someone who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs. Tests for the current illegal use of drugs are permitted at any time prior to or during employment.
  • While people with alcoholism may be individuals with disabilities, the ADA still allows employers to hold them to the same performance and conduct standards as all other employees, including rules prohibiting drinking on the job.Example: An employer may fire an employee who is drinking alcohol while on the job if it has a uniformly applied rule prohibiting such conduct.But: There may be times when you may have to accommodate an employee with alcoholism. For example, an employer may have to modify a rule prohibiting personal phone calls at work for an employee with alcoholism who periodically has to contact his “AA sponsor,” if the employee has a need to do so during work hours.

Here is the text from the ADA itself discussing this issue:  

ILLEGAL USE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

SEC. 12114. [Section 104]

(a) Qualified individual with a disability. – For purposes of this subchapter, a qualified individual with a disability shall not include any employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.

(b) Rules of construction. – Nothing in subsection (a) of this section shall be construed to exclude as a qualified individual with a disability an individual who-

(1) has successfully completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program and is no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs, or has otherwise been rehabilitated successfully and is no longer engaging in such use;

(2) is participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and is no longer engaging in such use; or

(3) is erroneously regarded as engaging in such use, but is not engaging in such use; except that it shall not be a violation of this chapter for a covered entity to adopt or administer reasonable policies or procedures, including but not limited to drug testing, designed to ensure that an individual described in paragraph (1) or (2) is no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs.

(c) Authority of covered entity. –

A covered entity-

(1) may prohibit the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol at the workplace by all employees;

(2) may require that employees shall not be under the influence of alcohol or be engaging in the illegal use of drugs at the workplace;

(3) may require that employees behave in conformance with the requirements established under the Drug ­Free Workplace Act of 1988 (41 U.S.C. 701 et seq.);

(4) may hold an employee who engages in the illegal use of drugs or who is an alcoholic to the same qualification standards for employment or job performance and behavior that such entity holds other employees, even if any unsatisfactory performance or behavior is related to the drug use or alcoholism of such employee; . . . .

The bolded text at the end is the key language in our view.  It gives employers the authority to hold an employee “who is an alcoholic to the same qualification standards for employment or job performance and behavior that such entity holds other employees, even if any unsatisfactory performance or behavior is related to the drug use or alcoholism of such employee.”

Topics:

Share:   a b j c