Many employers may not realize that drug or alcohol addiction can qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If there is an employee that is in a rehabilitation program with an addiction that substantially impairs his or her life activities, then he or she may be protected under the ADA. The employee’s participations in the rehabilitation program generally, qualifies as a disability or a perceived disability. 42 U.S.C. section 12114 (b).
However, depending on whether or not the employee’s ongoing use of illegal drugs, the notices provided to the employee, and the violations of employment rules, the employer may still be able to discipline or terminate the employee. 42 U.S.C. 12114 (a) and Conley v. Village of Bedford Park, 215 F.3d 703 (7th Cir. 200o). It should be noted that addiction to alcohol or alcoholism may constitute a disability just like addiction to any other drug addiction. Despears v. Milwaukee County, 63 F.3d 635 (7th Cir. 1995).
Employers should take heart that typically, recreational alcohol or drug use is not protected under the ADA. Moreover violations of an employer’s drug and alcohol policy are often sufficient to justify their adverse employment actions. Even though, alcoholism is a disability, driving under the influence and reports of alcohol odor are sufficient to justify dismissal of an employee. Bekker v. Humana Health Plan, Inc., 229 F.3d 662 (7th Cir. 2000).
If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not your drug and alcohol policy complies with the ADA, then please feel free to contact us. If you are reading this at any other site, then it is likely to be an infringing copy of the article or post provided at the Intellectual Property and Employment Law Blog.