Is Addiction Considered A Disability By ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect those with an addiction to illegal drugs. Illegal use of drugs is grounds for denying employment or firing from employment. Employers may also test their applicants or employees for illegal substance use. ADA recognizes substance abuse as alcohol or drugs.

Someone participating in illegal substance abuse does not qualify as protected by ADA if they have a disability caused by their illegal consumption.

However, there are limited circumstances where ADA protects an individual with an addiction disability.

Is Drug Addiction Covered Under ADA?

The law does cover individuals who are being rehabilitated or who have completed rehabilitation. ADA covers a job Is Addiction Considered A Disability By ADA?applicant or employee who is no longer engaging in substance abuse. ADA also protects the individual with a disability who has been wrongly accused of substance use.

ADA may cover a former drug addict because his or her addiction is viewed as a limiting impairment. But someone who is a casual user of drugs would not be covered by ADA.

Basically, ADA is a labyrinth of possibility of whether or not it will protect you if you have been addicted to a substance in the past or the present. What is considered a disability under ADA?

What Does It Mean To Be A Current Substance Abuser?

The point of ADA is to protect workers from workplace discrimination. One of the difficulties is assessing what is current abuse of drugs or alcohol. The nuances of this law can create a tricky case. These situations are determined case-by-case. Every part of a substance abuse discrimination case is important to understand how it falls under the law.

The ADA has a few points to guide their decision of whether or not an employee is a current substance abuser.

  • A positive drug test means a current user.
  • Current drug use is anytime the use has occurred recently enough that the employer believes there is ongoing substance problem.
  • The idea of current is not limited by any specific timeline, whether day of use or recent weeks.

For every case, the outcome is determined according to the other factors involved, the period of time known for substance abuse, and possible rehabilitation. Such an involved and intricate process seems likely to be subjective, and it may be wise to consult an employment lawyer.

Is Alcoholism a Disability Under ADA?

Alcoholism is considered a disability under ADA since it often has a physical and mental impairment that limits a person’s major life activities. Workers with a history of alcoholism also receive protections from the ADA. The ADA is particularly considerate of workers who are working towards rehabilitation.

Generally, courts have held that alcohol addiction is a covered disability of ADA. Others courts have questioned this idea, and they have determined to take each situation under determination with the information that they have. At this point, the question is taken back to the definition of “disability” according to ADA, meaning something which substantially limits a person’s ability to do a major life activity.

Although alcoholism may be considered to be a covered disability by courts, this decision does not keep employers from upholding rules about alcohol in the workplace. ADA protects employees from being discriminated against solely because of their addiction. ADA requires that all employees be treated equally in benefits and discipline and that these employees fulfill their job duties.

Since alcohol addiction is a case-by-case determination, it’s ideal to be informed about your rights under ADA. Every discrimination case offers many difficulties and ADA, although meant to protect employees with a disability from discrimination, is a complicated law. Don’t go into a discrimination case on your own.

What Can My Employer Do And Not Do Under ADA?

Is Addiction Considered A Disability By ADA?Substance abuse tangles the process of figuring out what disability is covered by ADA and what is not even more than a standard case. To follow the law, Employers are required to have certain rules regarding alcohol and drugs in the workplace. ADA tries to establish what an employer can do and cannot do in relation to drug and alcohol use.

  • A user of illegal drugs is not protected by ADA so an employer may discipline according to the illegal drug use.
  • A history of drug use cannot be used by an employer against a rehabilitated employee.
  • Prohibiting illegal substance abuse in the workplace by the employer is lawful.
  • Employers may administrate drug tests.
  • Current users of illegal drugs may be fired or denied employment at the employer’s discretion.

ADA does not hinder employers from following federal laws and regulations such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Certain regulations must be kept in accordance with certain types of employment, including law enforcement employees, railroad engineers, and safety-sensitive positions.

These are only a quick skim of the rights an employer has when it comes to illegal drug use and their employees. ADA allows for unusual situations. Since ADA has allowance for different types of scenarios, this further complicates an already convoluted law. If you think your situation may be covered by ADA or you want to know your rights under the law, call us.


If you find yourself in the stressful situation of discrimination with the added difficulty of drug or alcohol addiction, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.

Don’t hesitate, talk to an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or