Skip to Main Content

EEOC Issues Guidance on Opioid Addiction and the ADA

Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Amber Ramirez

On August 5, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two new publications that aim to clarify existing requirements related to opioid addiction and employment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The new guidance describes existing requirements related to opioid use and employment under the ADA.


Illegal Drug Use: Current, illegal drug use is not an ADA-protected disability.

Legal Drug Use: The ADA protects individuals who use opioids legally or have recovered from opioid addiction.

Accommodating Opioid Use: Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for legal opioid use, unless doing so would pose a direct threat to safety in the workplace.

ADA Protections for Opioid Users

The first document, titled Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees, makes clear that current, illegal drug use is not a covered disability under the ADA. However, it also clarifies that the ADA does protect an individual from disability discrimination if he or she is: 

  • Lawfully using opioid medication;
  • Receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction; or
  • In recovery from opioid addiction.

This document also povides information about what reasonable accommodations for employees who legally use opioids and guidance for when an employer has concerns about an employee’s ability to perform his or her job safely.

Information for Health Care Providers

The second document, titled How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed, informs health care providers about their patients’ workplace rights under the ADA. The document aims to help health care providers offer proper documentation to employers when a patient who uses opioids needs a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. It also gives information about how to help employers evaluate whether, and to what extent, an employee who legally uses opioids would pose a workplace safety risk.

This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. ©2020 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.