What are my rights regarding being able to work while on medication?

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What are my rights regarding being able to work while on medication?

I have worked for the past 18 years at my job. However, I’ve been on disability for the past year and a half to have knee and brain surgery. I am cleared to go back to work but I am still on my pain medication which is a narcotic, so they won’t let me come back as long as I am on it. I have been on this medication for over 10 years now but my employer never knew. Would it be a mistake to tell them I was doing my job while on the medication for the past 10 years with no problem? Why should there be a problem now?

Asked on October 17, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The issue isn't whether you previously did the job while on the narcotics the issue is whether it is reasonably plausible that the narcotic could interfere with job performance or, more importantly, could cause you to pose a hazard to yourself, others, or company property. If there is a reasonable risk associated with having an employee on a narcotic, or likely impact on job performance, then they can refuse to let you work employers are not required to shoulder higher risks or accept lowered performance.
On the other hand, if there is no reasonable risk or performance impact, then refusing to let you work may be illegal disability-based discrimination. If you think this is the case, either contact the federal EEOC or your state equal rights agency to file a complaint, or consult with an employment law attorney about possibly bringing a lawsuit.


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