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Employees who are using opioids legally are protected under federal disability law and can request an accommodation if its use creates a safety issue, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says in employee guidance issued Wednesday.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act allows employers to fire employee for opioids’ illegal use even if there is not a performance or safety problem, if its use is legal “an employer cannot automatically disability you because of opioid use without considering if there is a way for you do the job safely and effectively,” the agency said in its guidance, Use of Codeine, Oxycodone and Other Opioids: Information for Employees.
The guidance says if an employee is taking opioid medicine as directed in a Medication Assisted Program, they cannot be denied a job or fired “unless you cannot do the job safely and effectively or you are disqualified under another federal law.”
The advisory says in addition to being able to get a reasonable accommodation because of an opioid addiction, employees can also request one if they still need a reasonable accommodation to help avoid a relapse.
Employees do not need to have a particular accommodation in mind, the guidance says, “but you can ask for something specific if you know what it is.”
Once the request is received, employers might ask employees to fill out a form and submit a letter from a health care provider that shows they have an ADA disability and that explains why they need a reasonable accommodation, the advisory says.
It says employers must provide a reasonable accommodation if it does not involve significant difficulty or expense and is not allowed to charge the employee for the accommodation.
Employers may also be required to hold employees’ job while they take leave for treatment or recovery, it says.
Separately, the agency also issued guidance on how health care providers can help current and former patients who have used or misused opioids stay employed.
Dermatological drug payment shares have risen more than 10% and are a greater portion of workers compensation drug spend in many states, the Workers Compensation Research Institute said in a study released Tuesday.