EEOC Releases Two Guidance Documents on Opioid Addiction and Employment

Opioid

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released two technical assistance documents that addressed concerns about the opioid addiction epidemic and the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), according to a press release from the EEOC.

The two guidance documents from the EEOC are called “Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees” and “How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed.” Brief descriptions of the two documents are available below.

“Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees”

While making clear that current illegal drug use is not a covered disability, this document clarifies that individuals who are lawfully using opioid medication, are in treatment for opioid addiction and are receiving Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), or have recovered from their addiction, are protected from disability discrimination.

In addition, the document answers questions about reasonable accommodations that may be available to employees who currently legally use opioids, as well as what to do if an employer has concerns about the employee’s ability to safely perform his or her job. The document is available here.

“How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed”

This document informs health care providers about their patients’ legal rights in the workplace. Medical providers are often key participants in the interactive process between employers and workers as employers seek to understand the employee’s condition and potential need for reasonable accommodation.

In addition to describing the coverage limits under the ADA, the document provides guidance to health care workers seeking to provide documentation of covered disabilities on behalf of their patients. The increase of opioid use and abuse in recent years poses unique challenges to the workplace. The document is available here.

What are “Opioids”?

Opioids include prescription drugs such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Lorcet®), and meperidine (Demerol®), as well as illegal drugs like heroin. They also include buprenorphine (Suboxone® or Subutex®) and methadone, which can treat opioid addiction.

The guidance documents – one for employees and one for health care providers – aim to provide clarity to the public regarding existing legal requirements under the law. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. To learn more about the EEOC, visit www.eeoc.gov.

Positive Workforce Drug Tests at Highest Rate in 16 Years

The rate of workforce urine drug test positivity in the combined U.S. workforce increased to a sixteen-year high in 2019, climbing to 4.5 percent, the highest level since 2003 and more than 28 percent higher than the thirty-year low of 3.5 percent recorded between 2010 and 2012, according to an analysis by Quest Diagnostics.

However, the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ also found positivity for opiates in workforce urine drug testing in the general U.S. workforce declined more than 19 percent, from 0.31 percent in 2018 versus 0.25 percent in 2019, and 49 percent over five years, from 0.49 percent in 2015 versus 0.25 percent in 2019.

Workforce Drug Testing from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers pre- and post-employment drug testing solutions for employers in a fully integrated electronic solution with access to over 10,000 collection sites as well as information about opioids. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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