- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require employers to provide accommodations to workers who "are using opioids, are addicted to opioids, or were addicted to opioids in the past" and are not currently using the drugs illegally, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in technical guidance released Aug. 5.
- Employers may not, for example, automatically disqualify applicants for opioid use, so long as the use is legal, "without considering if there is a way for [them] to do the job safely and effectively." It's also possible an employer would need to provide an accommodation if a worker's opioid use could interfere with safe and effective job performance. Such accommodations could include shift assignment changes or temporary position transfers, EEOC said. Employers need not "lower production or performance standards, eliminate essential functions ... of a job, pay for work that is not performed or excuse illegal drug use on the job as a reasonable accommodation."
- The commission issued a second document that offers guidance to healthcare providers tasked with providing documentation for opioid-using patients seeking accommodations.
The information spelled out in the guidance is not new, EEOC clarified. HR professionals should still take note, however, as the documents will be "broadly available to employees and their healthcare providers," Fox Rothschild Partner Jeffrey Thomas wrote in a blog post.
The guidance may merit attention due to the widespread nature of the opioid crisis, as well. Three-quarters of surveyed U.S. employers said they've been affected directly by employee opioid abuse, according to a 2019 study from the National Safety Council. As extensive as the problem is, solutions are just as evasive. Seventeen percent of employers said they feel "extremely well prepared" to deal with employee opioid abuse.
In addition to accommodations that enable opioid users to keep their jobs, HR can consider a variety of other strategies that combat the problem, Health Rosetta Co-Founder Dave Chase previously wrote for HR Dive. HR departments can begin by examining their health plans to ensure they offer access to "value-based primary care."