Workplace Substance Abuse Regulations

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There are federal laws which provide guidelines on the policies employers can set regarding drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Employers can prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol, test for drug use, and fire employees who are engaging in illegal drug use.

The regulations are typically listed in the organization's drug and alcohol abuse and prevention policy. The guidelines may include information on when the company tests for drugs and alcohol, as well as on the consequences of failing a test.

The law also provides protection for employees with substance abuse problems and outlines the accommodations that the employer must provide for workers.

In addition to federal law, there may be state laws which regulate employment drug and alcohol testing, and how employers can handle substance abuse problems.

Workplace Substance Abuse Regulations

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both affect drug and alcohol policies. He following outlines aspects of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that relate to employees with drug and alcohol issues:

  • Employers can prohibit the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol in the workplace.
  • Testing for illegal use of drugs does not violate the ADA (but must meet state requirements).
  • Employers may discharge or deny employment to those who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against drug addicts who have a history of drug addiction or who are not currently using drugs and have been rehabilitated (or who are currently in a rehabilitation program).
  • Reasonable accommodation efforts, such as permitting time off for medical care, self-help programs, etc., must be extended to drug addicts who have been rehabilitated or who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  • An alcoholic may be determined an "individual with a disability" under the ADA.
  • Employers may discharge, discipline, or deny employment to alcoholics whose use of alcohol hinders job performance or behavior to the same extent that such actions would result in similar disciplinary action for other employees.
  • Employees using drugs and alcohol must meet the same standards of performance and behavior as other employees.
  • The ADA does not protect casual drug users. However, those with a record of addiction, or who are falsely deemed to be being addicts, are covered by the Act.

Discrimination Issues

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities in organizations that employ 15 or more employees. Similarly, section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes it unlawful for contractors and subcontractors with the Federal government to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

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