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April 28, 2022

Federal Guidance on Legal Protections: Opioid Use Disorder

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently published guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals in treatment or recovery from Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). The publication, “The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Opioid Crisis: Combating Discrimination Against People in Treatment or Recovery,” is designed to assist employers in complying with anti-discrimination laws when dealing with individuals who are in treatment or recovery for OUD.

The publication is part of the DOJ’s response to the opioid crisis which continues to pose challenges to communities and workplaces across the country. The guide provides useful insights on employer responsibilities when it comes to providing accommodations for those individuals in treatment or recovery for OUD. The guides easy-to-read FAQ format includes multiple examples and reminds employers that ADA protections apply not only to the individuals own treatment or recovery circumstances, but also their association with individuals who have OUD.

It is important to remember that nothing in the ADA or other state/federal anti-discrimination laws, prohibits an employer from adopting or administering reasonable policies or procedures, including drug testing, designed to ensure workers are not engaging in the illegal use of drugs. However, the complex nature of OUD treatment or recovery necessitates, in some cases, that the individual be prescribed an opioid or other similar medication (under supervision of a licensed health care professional) to treat the disease. Employers engaged in navigating this fine line of compliance and enforcement should review the new DOJ guide and seek legal counsel to gain additional insight.

Members with questions about drug testing policies/procedures or reasonable accommodations for workers in treatment or recovery should contact Western Growers.