Opioid Use Disorder, Your Employer, and the ADA
Are you or somebody you love getting ready to seek treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)? If so, you probably have questions about your rights as an employee. Many people want to keep their jobs as they seek out treatment. People with addiction usually rely on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to help them inform their employers of accommodations they need to help treat their OUD. If you’re seeking help, there are some specifics you'll need to learn about before you go to treatment.
People with opioid use disorder are protected under the ADA as individuals with a disability. All people with substance use or mental health disorders have rights under the ADA as long as they participate in treatment and stay sober. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace, housing, and other areas of public life.
What Rights Does The ADA Cover For Opioid Use Disorder?
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including those with opioid use disorder unless doing so would cause an undue hardship for the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include:
- Time off for medical treatment: Your employer must allow an employee to attend medical appointments or receive treatment related to their substance use disorder. (You may also end up using another federal law, the Family Medical Leave Act, if you must take an extended leave of absence for treatment.)
- Modification of work schedule: The employer must be willing to modify an employee's work schedule to accommodate any medical treatment or appointments related to substance use addiction recovery.
- Job restructuring: An employer may need to restructure an employee's duties to remove any essential functions the employee cannot perform because of their opioid use disorder. For example, if you work at a pharmacy, you may ask to have other employees handle dispensing opioids.
- Drug testing: An employer may need to modify its drug testing policies for employees recovering from addiction. Many people with OUD also use Medication-Assisted Treatment to help them stay clean, which would make their drug test positive for opioids.
Employees with opioid use disorder need to communicate their needs and any accommodations they require to their employer when they are ready to get sober. It can be a difficult conversation, but many workplace employees have medical issues that need reasonable accommodations. ADA laws contain essential protections for all workers. Employers and employees can collaborate to find appropriate accommodations that support the employee's recovery and ability to perform their job duties.
It's also important to note that the ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, so smaller employers may not be covered under the law.
Privacy Laws, the ADA, and Opioid Use Disorder
Under the ADA, an employer must keep any medical information about an employee confidential and cannot disclose it to anyone else without the employee's written consent, except in limited circumstances. (For example, a supervisor who wants the information when you ask for a reasonable accommodation.)
It's essential for people with opioid addiction to understand their rights under these laws and to communicate privacy concerns to their employers. If you are worried your employer may discriminate against you, ensure you understand these rights and let them know about them. You may want to speak with treatment professionals to learn the best approach for talking to your employer.
People who believe their privacy rights have been violated can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). It is also possible to seek legal counsel and sue to enforce your rights under the ADA.
Getting Help for Opioid Use Disorder
If you need help with opioid use disorder, we're here to guide you. All of the medical information you give to help you during treatment is covered by HIPPA privacy laws. We want you to have a calm, healthy journey to sobriety using the best evidence-based treatment tools available. If you're in North Carolina, call us to learn more about your options.
If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.