- Rover's Place, a Northbrook, Illinois-based dog kennel company, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when one of the company's owners created a "hostile work environment," asked about his medical history and forced him to quit due to his past opioid addiction, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a release dated Oct. 1.
- The worker in question was not using drugs at the time of the incident and had not presented any workplace issues due to former drug use, the EEOC said.
- "While in very limited circumstances, the ADA permits employers to make appropriate, job-related medical inquires [sic], that law prohibits employers from harassing their employees because of a disability and denying them equal employment opportunities," Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District Office, commented in the release. Rover's Place directed HR Dive to their attorney, who had not submitted a comment by press time.
Employers are free to enforce drug policies, especially when use interferes with work responsibilities and the maintenance of a safe work environment; however, employers are not generally free to demand employees' medical histories or make employment decisions based on former drug use disorders.
Drug addiction, including opioid use disorder, is a disability under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a fact sheet provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.
The fact sheet notes that federal disability rights laws can be triggered if the worker with a drug use disability is not currently, illegally using drugs; has successfully completed or is currently undergoing a supervised rehabilitation program; or is falsely regarded as engaging in drug use, but is not doing so.
Employers that are concerned about employees' health and how potential drug use could affect work responsibilities can take a proactive approach, including providing access to wellness programs that provide alternatives to opioid use, providing education about opioids and other drugs and ensuring employees have strong compensation and benefit packages that reduce the kinds of stress that can lead to addiction problems.