US Department of Education NIDRR Technical Assistance Program

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Chapter VIII: Drug And Alcohol Abuse

8.4 Alcoholism

While a current illegal user of drugs has no protection under the ADA if the employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection simply because of the alcohol use. An alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation, if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. However, an employer may discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that s/he is not "qualified."

For example: If an individual who has alcoholism often is late to work or is unable to perform the responsibilities of his/her job, an employer can take disciplinary action on the basis of the poor job performance and conduct. However, an employer may not discipline an alcoholic employee more severely than it does other employees for the same performance or conduct.