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Does the ADA Cover Addiction?

two employees at a desk with clipboards ready to talk about ada and substance abuse

Navigating the complexities of addiction can be challenging, especially when considering the potential implications on your employment. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps protect the rights of employees in the U.S.1 Learning more about the ADA and how substance abuse may be covered can help you gain confidence in seeking treatment.

Don’t stop looking for addiction treatment because you’re afraid of job insecurity. Trying to work while you’re living with active addiction is not sustainable. Call 888.340.2214 and find help from one of BlueCrest’s substance abuse treatment programs.

What Is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a comprehensive civil rights law designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It covers various domains, including employment, which is particularly important for those grappling with addiction. The ADA’s protections apply if you meet certain eligibility criteria, such as working for an employer with 15 or more employees.

ADA and Drug Addiction: The Legal Perspective

Unlike other labor laws, like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the ADA focuses directly on the disease of addiction and its long-term consequences.2

Protected Under ADA

When it comes to the ADA and substance abuse, the law protects:

  • Individuals who have been successfully rehabilitated and no longer engage in illegal drug use
  • Individuals currently participating in a rehab program and no longer engaging in illegal drug use
  • Individuals who have been falsely regarded as drug users

There are some important considerations to these protections, though. Someone who casually used drugs and did not develop an addiction and, therefore, did not develop a disability.

Not Protected Under ADA

The ADA protects individuals living in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Active alcohol or drug addiction may not be protected. Employees may not be protected under the ADA if:

  • They are reprimanded due to current illegal drug use
  • They use drugs or alcohol on the job against company policy
  • They test positive on an employer-given drug test
  • They fail to meet performance standards due to current drug or alcohol use

Trying to hide drug or alcohol use, especially when it arises to the level of addiction, only delays the inevitable.

Does Enrolling in Rehab Enable ADA Protection?

Not necessarily. Individuals who test positive for substances on a verifiable drug test are not protected by the ADA, whether or not they enter rehab. Trying to enroll in rehab after testing positive on a drug test given by an employer will not automatically shield an employee from consequences, including possible termination.

Likewise, the ADA does not protect employees for their actions that may have been influenced by their active addiction. If an employee is tardy, absent, or has performance issues due to drug or alcohol use, the ADA does not prevent an employer from taking appropriate disciplinary action.

Reasonable Accommodations for Rehab

Reasonable accommodations are changes to the work environment or job duties that help individuals with disabilities perform their jobs. For example, someone who uses a wheelchair may need an accessible desk or ramp to enter the building. Similarly, someone living in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction may need a leave of absence to attend treatment or a modified schedule for support group meetings to sustain their recovery.

Employers do not have to provide rehab services to employees. A leave of absence is just the time off to attend a program that the employee may have already paid for themselves.

Call BlueCrest Health Group and Enroll in Rehab

There is a significant amount of protection offered by the ADA, and substance abuse accommodations may be covered. If you’re struggling with addiction, don’t let job security concerns stop you from seeking help. Contact BlueCrest Health Group online or call 888.340.2214 and find a treatment program that fits your needs.


  1. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division – Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, As Amended
  2. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – Sharing the Dream: Is the ADA Accommodating All? Chapter 4: Substance Abuse under the ADA