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According to federal law from The Americans with Disabilities Act, you have a right to ongoing treatment for your past drug or alcohol addiction, your employer must try to accommodate reasonable requests so that you can continue with your recovery and he or she may not discriminate against you on the basis of your past as an alcoholic or drug addict.

This law covers workers at companies or organizations which retain 15 or more employees.

Under the statutes of this law:

  • You cannot be discriminated against because of your history of addiction.
  • Your employer cannot discriminate against you for receiving addiction treatment. This includes inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient substance abuse programs, self help meetings (like A.A., for example) and other forms of treatment.
  • Employers must strive to accommodate reasonable requests to facilitate medical care, such as requests for time off to attend self help meetings or participate in an outpatient addiction treatment program.

However, The Americans with Disabilities Act does not cover people:

  • Who are currently using illegal drugs - Employers are free to sanction or fire employees for illegal drug use, and are free to test employees for illegal drugs
  • Who use illegal drugs or alcohol at the workplace – these people can legally be fired.
  • Whose use of alcohol, even after hours, impairs their ability to perform up to job standards. Alcoholics, however, must be held to the same standards as everyone else – so though you may be known as an alcoholic you cannot be disciplined or fired for actions that would not result in discipline or job termination for non-alcoholic employees.1

What to Do If You Are Discriminated Against

Employers who violate your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act may be required to correct any wrongdoings and/or make a financial settlement to you. If you feel that your rights have been violated, the first thing for you to do is to call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Coalition (EEOC) at 1-800-669-4000. During this phone call, EEOC staff will listen to your grievance and advise you on the likely merits of your complaint. If your complaint has merit and falls under EEOC jurisdiction, you will be asked to visit a local field office to complete the complaint process.

If your complaint is considered valid, the EEOC will likely contact your employer to seek a voluntary settlement through a process of conciliation. If this is unsuccessful, the EEOC may file suit on your behalf or you may be granted a ‘Notice of right to sue’ which allows you to sue in federal or state court.

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Page last updated May 20, 2011

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