US Department of Education NIDRR Technical Assistance Program

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Chapter VIII: Drug And Alcohol Abuse

8.6 Persons "Regarded As" Addicts and Illegal Drug Users

Individuals who are not illegally using drugs, but who are erroneously perceived as being addicts and as currently using drugs illegally, are protected by the ADA.

For example: If an employer perceived someone to be addicted to illegal drugs based upon rumor and the groggy appearance of the individual, but the rumor was false and the appearance was a side-effect of a lawfully prescribed medication, this individual would be "regarded as" an individual with a disability (a drug addict) and would be protected from discrimination based upon that false assumption. If an employer did not regard the individual as an addict, but simply as a social user of illegal drugs, the individual would not be "regarded as" an individual with a disability and would not be protected by the ADA.

As with other disabilities, an individual who claims that s/he was discriminated against because of past or perceived illegal drug addiction, may be asked to prove that s/he has a record of, or is regarded as having, an addiction to drugs.