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Alcohol testing
  • Employers must comply with ADA guidelines when testing a person for alcohol.
  • Under the ADA, a test for alcohol is considered a medical exam.
  • A test for alcohol can only be completed after an offer of employment is made or if there is a safety concern.

A workplace test for alcohol is more tightly regulated under federal law than a test for drugs. This is because a test for alcohol is considered a medical exam under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). From an ADA point of view, a medical exam is a procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health. This includes blood, urine, and breath analyses to check for alcohol use.

A medical exam can only be given at certain times in the hiring process and during employment, such as:

  • After an offer is made: A medical exam can be conducted after an offer of employment has been made but before an employee begins work.
  • If there is a safety concern: A medical exam can also be conducted during employment if the employer has reason to believe that the employee would not be able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical concern.

Because of these restrictions, a test for alcohol should only be conducted:

  • After a job offer is made,
  • When alcohol use is suspected, or
  • If an employee in a safety-sensitive position is returning to work after attending a rehabilitation program for alcohol addiction.

A medical exam may NOT be given at the application stage. An employer may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before making a job offer. Because of this, job applicants should not be routinely tested for alcohol. A test for alcohol could be conducted after a job offer is made, if the employer would like.