Asking Job Applicants About Drug and Alcohol Use

March 28, 2012
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Q: As a community association manager, what can I ask a job applicant about drug and alcohol use without facing a discrimination lawsuit?

A: You must be very careful if you have 15 or more employees. While you want a workplace free of drug- and alcohol-related problems, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bars companies with 15 or more employees from discriminating against the disabled, including those who are recovered or recovering alcoholics or drug addicts.

There is a fine line between questions that are okay and those that can get you into trouble, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) memo issued in 1995. According to the EEOC memo, you can’t ask prospective employees the following questions regarding drug and alcohol use before you decide whether they are qualified for the job:

• What medications are you currently taking?

• Have you ever taken [name of illegal drug]?

• How often did you use illegal drugs in the past?

• Have you ever been addicted to drugs?

• Have you ever been treated for a drug addiction?

• Have you ever been treated for drug abuse?

• How much alcohol do you drink?

• Have you ever participated in an alcohol rehabilitation program?

To avoid a lawsuit, remember to review any questions that you plan to ask job applicants with your association’s attorney before using them in your job interviews.