Proposed Anti-Discrimination Rules by EEOC Draws Field Concerns

Article excerpt

The proposed definition by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of "current" illegal use of drugs could deny anti-discrimination protection to many who are no longer engaged in such use, field groups complained in comments on rulemaking to implement the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA, passed last July, extends protection against discrimination in employment and other activities to the disabled in the private sector, including recovered alcoholics and drug addicts, but excluding current users of illegal drugs (AR, July '90). Rulemaking was simultaneously launched by EEOC and the Justice Department, the latter dealing with the ADA as it relates to state and local governments.

The Legal Action Center, joined by some 30 other field organizations, criticized the EEOC's language on current use, which states, in part, that "currently engaging is not intended to be limited to the use of drugs on the day of, or within a matter of weeks before, the employment action in question."

"This statement establishes no time limits and, thus, would permit inquiries about drug use occurring many weeks or months before the employment decision," the Center said in a letter to EEOC. As a result, many individuals who are no longer using drugs illegally would be denied protection."

The Center urged EEOC to adopt the Justice Department's definition - illegal use of drugs that occurred recently enough to justify a reasonable belief that a person's drug use is current or that continuing use is a real and ongoing problem."

Also drawing concern was EEOC's statement that employers, such as law enforcement agencies, may be able to exclude individuals with a history of illegal use of drugs if they can show that such a standard is "job related and consistent with business necessity." The Legal Action Center recalled that during consideration of the ADA bill in Congress, numerous efforts were made to restrict protection for individuals with a history of alcohol or drug problems, and aU were rejected. …