employer discrimination

Combat Employer Discrimination against Alcohol/Drug Histories

Individuals in recovery face a special challenge when they feel ready to re-enter the workforce. In Strengthening Professional Identity: Challenges of the Addictions Treatment Workforce, a 2006 report prepared by Abt Associates, Inc., based on stakeholder meetings convened by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), the authors cite a California survey in which 59% of employers reported that they would never hire anyone with a felony. Historically speaking, job applicants who have been honest about their drug histories were turned down 75% of the time, and individuals with alcohol and drug histories have reported significantly higher rates of involuntary job loss, possibly due to employer discrimination. Regardless of barriers that obstruct your chances of getting the job you want, it’s always best to be honest, but it doesn’t mean you have to shoot yourself in the foot, either.

What kinds of questions can employers ask?

Employers with 15 or more employees are not allowed to ask job candidates about their past drug and alcohol addiction or any questions that would bring up information about a disability. However, they can ask candidates if they have ever used illegal drugs. Usage does not necessarily indicate addiction and therefore would not qualify as a disability-related question. They may ask disability-related questions only after they’ve made an authentic job offer to the applicant. The interviewer can ask, “Have you ever used illegal drugs?” If you have, simply answer with a “yes” without volunteering any extra information. Employers cannot ask about the extent of alcohol and drug usage. Regarding alcohol, the interviewer can ask if you have ever been convicted for driving under the influence or whether you drink at all, but they cannot ask how much you drink.

Does volunteering information about your past addiction help combat employer discrimination?

Asking questions that reveal past drug addiction is illegal, but asking questions about dealing drugs is not, because the sale of illegal drugs is not considered a disability. Employers are generally discouraged from asking questions about past arrests, but under the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if they do ask about criminal convictions, they must also give candidates the opportunity to explain the circumstances, demonstrate reformative action steps they have taken, and prove their ability to perform the job functions required for the desired position. In other words, check “yes” if the question appears on the application and be prepared to explain yourself if the question arises, but if the interviewer doesn’t ask about your criminal conviction or past addiction, don’t bring it up during the job interview. If the subject comes up, highlight your shining qualities but be as succinct as possible when describing the circumstances. As much as possible, keep it short and say something like, “Yes, I have been convicted, but I have learned from my mistakes, and here is how I have grown from it…”

When am I protected (or not protected) under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990?

You are protected under the ADA if you have suffered from an addiction and/or have been severely impaired by a disability, limiting one or more of life’s major activities. Drug and alcohol addiction is considered a disability under the ADA, but you must also demonstrate efforts in seeking treatment and rehabilitation. You are not covered under ADA if you are currently using, and if you are applying for a job at a small company that has less than 15 employees, the ADA does not apply.

Where can I find rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction?

Seeking drug and alcohol rehabilitation is the first step in the right direction. Real help is available at New Method Wellness for those who seek to reform and transform their lives. The most important thing right now is to get into the right addiction treatment program before substance use disorders, co-occurring disorders and other health-related ailments get worse. New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis treatment center handpicked by Dr. Phil, has a wide array of research-based holistic therapy programs that have helped thousands of families recover from the disease of addiction. Clients will learn tools to ethically navigate the waters of workforce reentry as they gain new skills to manage stress, and they benefit from New Method Wellness’s Extended Aftercare program, which provides lifelong support for alumni, ensuring lifelong recovery and minimal relapse.

Any questions about addiction treatment and holistic programs? Call 866.951.1824 today!

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