The U.S. Justice Department has resolved a discrimination claim with a Minnesota town involving an employee who sought treatment for alcohol abuse disorder. File photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The Justice Department has resolved a discrimination claim with a Minnesota town involving an employee who sought treatment for alcohol abuse disorder.
The lawsuit claims the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine discriminated against an employee, who voluntarily disclosed that he was seeking treatment for alcohol-related problems, by requiring him to pay for his own alcohol and controlled substances testing and follow-up evaluations, which is a violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities in the terms, conditions and privileges of their employment.
It is the Justice Department's first ADA settlement resolving a claim of employment discrimination based on alcohol use disorder.
"Close to 30 million Americans in our country have had an alcohol use disorder and many are entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in a release.
"Employees with alcohol use disorder, or other disabilities, should not have to pay for employer-required health assessments to document information about their disabilities," said Clarke. "The Justice Department remains committed to ensuring that people with alcohol use disorder and other disabilities have equal opportunities in the workplace."
The case was referred to the Justice department from the Minneapolis Area Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which conducted the initial investigation.
The Justice Department filed a complaint and proposed consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Under the decree, which the court must approve, the city of Blaine will implement policies and procedures regarding non-discrimination in employment and train personnel on the requirements of Title I of the ADA. The city will also pay out-of-pocket losses and compensatory damages to the employee.
The latest government numbers show 48.7 million people in the U.S age 12 or older have a substance abuse disorder, including 29.5 million whose disorder was alcohol-related and 27.2 million who have a drug use disorder. A total of 8 million have both, the numbers show.
"AUD is a medical condition that is characterized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as 'a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress' that can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of symptoms experienced in the prior 12 months," the Justice Department explained.