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The Justice Department announced today that it filed a complaint and proposed consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to resolve allegations that the City of Blaine, Minnesota, discriminated against an employee with alcohol use disorder (AUD) in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities in the terms, conditions and privileges of their employment.
The lawsuit alleges that the city discriminated against an employee with alcohol use disorder who voluntarily disclosed that he was to undergo treatment by requiring him to pay for alcohol and controlled substances testing and evaluation based on his disability. This 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. 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 Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains committed to ensuring that people with alcohol use disorder and other disabilities have equal opportunities in the workplace.”
Under the proposed consent decree, which the court must approve, the city 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.
In 2022, 48.7 million people aged 12 or older (or 17.3%) had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 29.5 million who had AUD, 27.2 million who had a drug use disorder (DUD), and 8 million people who had both an AUD and a DUD. 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.
This matter is based on a referral from the Minneapolis Area Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which conducted the initial investigation.
For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TTY 1-833-610-1264) or visit www.ada.gov. For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against based on disability, please submit a report online at www.civilrights.justice.gov.