Archive for the ‘alcohol addiction’ Category

I have previously blogged that alcoholism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act in many circumstances. Old Dominion Freight Line has now found that out based upon an EEOC lawsuit filed against it.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week arguing that Old Dominion Freight Line discriminated against Charles Grams by stripping him of his position and offering him a demotion even if he completed a substance abuse counseling program.

The EEOC says alcoholism is a recognized disability under the ADA and that the company violated the law with its policy that bans any driver who admits alcohol abuse from driving again. The EEOC wants the company to reinstate Grams and another affected driver to their previous positions and provide them with back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and compensation for lost benefits. The EEOC is also seeking to block the company’s alcohol-related policy.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Grams, who had been with Old Dominion for five years without incident, informed the company in June 2009 that he believed he had an alcohol problem. The company suspended him from his driving position, which paid him nearly $22 per hour, including benefits. In compliance with U.S. Transportation Department regulations, Grams met with a substance abuse professional who notified the company that Grams would participate in an outpatient treatment program and could return to work. But Old Dominion told Grams that he wouldn’t be allowed to drive again for the company and instead offered him a part-time position as a dock worker as soon as it became available. The position paid $12 per hour without benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

The EEOC contends that the company’s actions deprived Grams and other affected drivers of “equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees, in violation of the ADA.”
“Grams is a qualified individual with a disability under ADA … who can perform the essential functions of a driving position,” the suit says, adding that Grams and other employees wouldn’t need treatment to perform non-driving duties.

If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace or had your job terminated based upon a disability, including alcoholism or substance abuse, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation about your legal rights.

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In some instances, an employee may have a drug or alcohol addiction.  The question is whether or not these drug and alcohol addictions are protected disabilities under the ADA.

The answer is alcoholics are protected under the ADA and persons who have used illegal drugs are also protected to the extent that they are no longer using illegal drugs and are in treatment for the addiction or have completed an addiction program.

Those addicted to drugs or alcohol are excluded from ADA protection if their condition poses a direct threat of harm to others or (arguably) themselves. As with all ADA claims, the addicted person must be otherwise qualified to complete the necessary tasks, with or without accommodations, and the accommodations must not cause “undue hardship” to the employer.

A drug or alcohol addict is then entitled to accomodation from their employer under the ADA.  Such accomodations could include leave time to attend counseling or AA meetings.

Some other examples of accommodations include:

1. Modified work schedule to allow for daily methadone pickup

2. “Job restructuring to relieve an employee of particular marginal tasks that may compromise recovery”

3. “Temporary reassignment of an employee in a safety-related position to a vacant non–safety-sensi- tive position while he or she completes treatment.”

Although some addicted people are covered under the ADA  . For example, although the ADA covers persons who have completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program or otherwise have been successfully rehabilitated, the ADA denies coverage of “any employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.” In contrast, “otherwise qualified” persons addicted to alcohol are covered under the ADA unless they pose a direct threat to others or break specific workplace rules against the use of alcohol.

These issues are frequently litigated and have been addressed by many court cases.  They can be fact intensive and should be evaluated by each employee with a qualified labor and employment law attorney.

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