Massachusetts Alcohol & Drugs: What you need to know

Some states have comprehensive laws that regulate or prohibit drug testing in the workplace, but Massachusetts does not have such a law.  As a general rule, employers are free to implement drug-testing programs at their own discretion.

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The Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of certain classifications, including disability (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 151B Sec. 1 et seq.).  According to guidelines issued by the state Commission Against Discrimination, alcoholism and drug addiction (but not recreational use) are considered disabilities.  However, current illegal use of controlled substances is not covered.  The Act covers employers with six or more employees.

Reasonable accommodation.   Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to covered individuals.  This does not mean employers have to tolerate abuse on the job; it may mean altering schedules to allow for participation in therapy programs, etc.

The federal ADA considers the current use of alcohol as a disability, but not the current use of illegal drugs.  However, the ADA does protect drug users who are either participating in, or who have completed, a supervised drug rehabilitation program and are no longer current drug users.

Employers should be aware that a random drug-testing policy may compete with an individual's right to privacy.  Article 14 of the Massachusetts Constitution protects invasion of privacy by the government by protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.  Some Massachusetts courts have interpreted ...

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