Caffeine Addiction a Recognized ADA Disability?

Rip Out the Coke Machine and Throw Away the Coffee Maker! It may not be too long before the government makes caffeine addiction a recognized ADA disability.

Just added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, aka the DSM-5 or the mental health bible, are two new diagnoses: caffeine withdrawal and caffeine intoxication. The reason I bring this up is because of the seemingly endless litany of disorders that the ever expanding ADA covers. When I saw the report of this new addition it made me wonder just how long it will be before the first disability claim or ADA accommodation demand is made by a worker because of his caffeine addiction.

If you think this is a bit far-fetched, just read the opening paragraph of the NBC report on this story: “There’s a slight tremor in your hands followed by cold sweats. You snap when a coworker asks you a question, and your piercing headache makes you unable to send the simplest email. It’s only noon but you’ve given up on accomplishing anything at work.” This description of caffeine withdrawal certainly sounds like it would fit the crazy and every growing expansion of disabilities under the new ADA rules. Now the old joke of “I can’t function until I’ve had my first cup o’ joe” could mean problems for employers. What would be the accommodation for this ailment? A coffee maker at every desk? Morning shots of espresso? A post lunch energy drink bar? Or perhaps we will have to conduct informative seminars and bring in withdrawal experts to slowly wean our over stimulated workers off the evil caffeine.

My advice to employers? Rip out the coke machines and throw away the coffee makers now. This way you can head off problems before they become a disability claim or accommodation request. Just as we’ve promoted tobacco free zones we may need to consider caffeine free areas as a part of our overall companywide health initiatives demanded by Obamacare. Perhaps we should begin now to talk to our employees about the dangers of over caffeinating and encourage them to voluntarily cut back.

These may all seem like extreme measures but, as HR professionals can testify, it is better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wait for the first lawsuit to arrive or the DOL investigator to arrive. Act now!

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