Safety and OSHA News

Applicant is in drug treatment, on methadone: Do you have to hire him?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) appears to be sending a message to employers: You can’t automatically refuse to hire applicants who test positive for methadone, a medication prescribed in drug treatment programs for recovering opiate addicts.

The EEOC is suing United Insurance Company of America for disability discrimination. The lawsuit claims United Insurance violated federal disability law when it refused to hire an applicant at its Raleigh, NC, office because he was a recovering drug addict.

In January 2010, United Insurance offered Craig Burns, a recovering addict, a job as an agent, pending a drug test.

Burns’ test showed methadone in his system. He submitted a letter to United Insurance from his treatment provider explaining he was in a supervised methadone treatment program.

After receiving that information, United Insurance withdrew its employment offer.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “recovering addictions” are considered disabilities.

The EEOC tried to reach a voluntary settlement with United Insurance. When that didn’t happen, the agency filed suit in U.S. District Court. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.

Second recent suit

EEOC lawsuits over discrimination against recovering addicts are rare. But earlier this year, the agency won an $85,000 settlement in a similar case.

Donald Teaford applied for a job at Hussey Copper in Leetsdale, PA. He was offered a production job, but first he had to pass a physical and drug test. All production jobs at Hussey were considered safety-sensitive positions.

Teaford tested positive for methadone. Hussey’s head of safety said an accommodation for Teaford wouldn’t be possible.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit, claiming that Hussey failed to conduct an individual assessment of Teaford, as required by the ADA. The company tried to get the suit thrown out, noting that it consulted a physician about Teaford’s case.

The court refused to throw out the case. The doctor had noted that a neurological exam was available to make an individual assessment, but the exam wasn’t performed on Teaford.

The case went to trial, but before a decision was rendered, Hussey agreed to a settlement.

Hussey agreed to pay Teaford $85,000 and to hire him as a mason utility laborer.

The key for employers: You can’t have a blanket policy that rejects recovering addicts on methadone for employment. However, individual assessments can rule out such applicants.

A side note: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration considers methadone a medically disqualifying medication for a commercial motor vehicle drivers’ license.

What are your thoughts on these cases? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. I’m ok with this type of protection for recovering addicts, but I think the employer should be allowed to perform random drug testing on the individual once a week at the employees expense. Sound too harsh??….The employer will be held responsible if that individual injures themselves or another employee while on the job. The employer has an obligation to protect ALL employees.

  2. sheralroh says:

    I am not OK with this type of protection for recovering addicts. Addiction to drugs is a personal choice and it is crazy that it should be considered a disability. That goes for alcoholism as well. This basically allows people not to take responsibility for what their choices. I would not like to hire anyone on methadone because of the nature of our work here with cranes & heavy manufacturing equipment. It’s laws like this that are bringing this country to its knees… let’s ship some more jobs overseas.. I am speechless over the outcome of the second subject that got $85,000 before he had even put in an honest day’s work. It’s shocking….

    • An addiction to opioid drugs is a disease..most people don’t wake up wanting to be a junky… every human brain is different… diabetes is a disease but one must have thier incilen….I have battled it for 13 years… sickness, severe depression, absolutely no drive, or control of your emotions without the drug….if there is a drug that can fix that, why would you be against it…I never used heroin I was hurt badly and a Dr got me addicted to pain killers…I am working on winging completely off slowly but this is my third attempt….I would rather die then not feel happy and normal like most people….I’ve worked in the oilfield for 13 years and have been very successful and if I would not have had this medication I would have either committed suicide or kept using….so if one is trying to better themselves why do you have such an uneducated opinion about it….it it a 100 percent proven medical fact that addiction is a disease…. I can understand u don’t have this problem so to u it’s not a decease it’s a choice….. I really wish I had that choice, more than anything….I would pay 100k if I could wake up and be addiction free…..we all have problems but one should really educate themselves before making thier comments….it can be abused like any other drug but that’s a different story…..if you spent 1 day in an opiate addicted persons shoes, I promise u would change your mind and see the bennifit in it……

      • I’m sooo glad you said that😄It’s really sad that people have such a bad stereotype against us when still to this very day and time it has gotten so bad IN ALL COMMUNITIES!!! Addicts that get help should be commended not ridiculed. Just to make the choice to change for the better is a blessing and accomplishment. Stay strong 😊

      • Very well said buddy this country right now is in a crisis because of prescription pills people losing their insurances turning to heroin now because a person is asking for help and taking medication prescribed by a doctor dispensed by a doctor every day you going to tell me that that person should not have the opportunity to have a decent job when he is trying to get his life back together that’s wrong that’s very wrong.

      • Jerry Schutte says:

        I totally agree. I have been in a supervised MMT program for 6 years at a daily dose of 105mg. I challenge anyone that thinks this medicine impairs me whatsoever!! As far the comment from the other guy about shipping more jobs overseas. Many of us became addicted from Doctors who really didnt do the right things. I myself was wounded serving my country and became addicted to my pain meds thru the V.A. hospital. So what does that mean person want? Should i not be allowed to work? If they want to ban me from working on a Crane or some other specific jobs i think their wrong in some cases but 85% of employers want drug screens and if you have a legal prescription for your medicine i dont think employers should keep you from working because you test positive for the medicine for which your prescribed. Now as far as suing and winning $85,000 then yes i agree. I wouldnt sue and i dont want $85G. I just wanna be able to get a job because theres nothing wrong with me while om on my MMT dose. Ive been clean from every other drug for over 6 years. People who are in successful MMT programs are dedicated people. We are committed to sobriety. We just wanna work!!!!

    • DependentNOTAddicted says:

      I became dependent on prescription opiates after spinal surgery to remove a tumor in my spinal canal. Within a short time doctors had raised prescribed dosages from simple Vicodin to over 150 oxycodone a month. When they insisted I raise to more powerful treatment I opted out and sought aid with methadone.

      Methadone treatment offers pain relief, but keeps your head clear and reflexes normal. (A must as I rapidly felt my life slipping away)

      The perception that everyone who is dependent on opiates is a needle “junky’ or brought this on themselves is ignorant at best. When your quality of life is next to nil. and you have multiple specialists wih PhDs telling you that this is the only treatment and it will only work if you follow the treatment plan.. (aka take all the medicine, don’t dare take less then prescribed or moderate.. they are the ones with the PHD/s)

      It should also be noted, that people on methadone therapy are usually required to take monthly or biweekly drug tests on their own dime to make sure they aren’t taking other opiates (as that can be toxic and fatal), So weekly drug testing at employee expense is redundant for most on methadone treatment.

    • Hey im on methadone after being addicted to painkillers after a serious shoulder surgery I was a body builder and a mixed martial artist and I hated addicts more than anyone but when you cant get off opiates and need methadone to stay alive and not killing yourself methadone saves you and for your ignorant comment I hope opiate addiction effects you or someone Iin your family cause you have no idea what methadone even does some people abuse it but me who takes it under supervision im on a low dose of 50mgs and I dont even realize ive taken it afyer I dose in the morning thats why your allowed to drive on it because your not considered high or intoxicated so why dont you do some research cause some addicts are actually serious and trying to fix their life and deserve a second chance I wouldn’t sue but I can outwork dead ass sober people and my IQ is somewhat high its 129 and I got addicted and I never ever ever thought it would happen to ne under the right circumstances it can happen to anyone so I can work circles around lazy fat slobs who eat and drink when they go home after work so until youve taken methadone or actually have knowledge on the subject no one cares about your ignorance and stupid comments I know a full blown drunk who is a diesel mechanic and is the best ive ever seen and ive seen many cause I was partners In a NAPA auto parts store for a decade so I know what im talking about

    • I was in the military and I served my country. I am a wounded warrior. And when I came back all the doctors did was fill me up with pain pills. I have severe PTSD. And yes I did become a addict. It wasn’t a choice. I did t chose to have this issue. It is a disease that most doctors caused. I am a recovering addict that works on methadone. If it wasn’t for the methadone I would have committed suicide. Most people really think that people on methadone are junkies. Well I’m not a junkie. I’m glad that I have the help of methadonewhile I get treatment for my addiction. And I wish that people would walk in my shoes and see how all of my addiction came from prescription pills that a doctor gave to me. I’m still on methadone and I work a job were I use heavy equipment and I have never had an accident. Just because someone is on methadone isn’t a reason for anyone to not be able to get a job. A recovering addict needs a job to keep them going in the right direction so that one day they can eventually get off methadone.

  3. It’s not shocking. We’re sheep. Tort reform now!

  4. Notenoughregs says:

    I agree, random drug test. Some companies require it for all employees, others for employees operating machinery or driving vehicles whether they are under medical programs or not. It’s prudent.

  5. I am currently working with a drug addict who has simply changed from the illegal drugs to a legal drug. He has been on methadone since 2002 and comes to work wiped out quite often. Because of the stupidity of the government, self serving associations like EEOC and medical staff that need a job I am forced to endure the bad language, reckless behavior and dishonesty of this individual. My employer against his better judgment is being ruled by the fear of retaliation if he terminates. Therefore this employee knowing this is simply an accident looking for a place to happen. It is my intent to sue the government, the EEOC, the doctor and my employer should I be a victim in one of his accidents.

    • If this person is coming up there zoned out he is on something else methadone does not make you zoned out it is designed to make you feel normal people on methadone are not high I just wish people would educate their selves if they’re going to make comments this guy is on something else or he is abusing his methadone and taking too much methadone is designed to help you live a normal life most methadone users are not heroin Junkies they got addicted to opioids thanks to an injury and their Dr and now need methadone to beat their addiction I sure hope nobody else that judges us has a debilitating injury and has to take these drugs or they could be in the same situation

  6. If your coworker is comin to work wiped out and talks vulgar then that’s a character issue and not methadone. If he is using it correctly then he would show no signs of being on It. It has no effects on cognitive skills. He apparently is using illegal drugs again.

  7. I agree Chad! I am currently on Methadone and seeking a job. I have been on it since 2010 and I have no effects of anything euphoric or anything like that. This drug is simply to help addicts like myself safely get off illegal rx drugs in a controlled manor. Paul, if your coworker is coming in wiped out then he is either abusing it, meaning he has requested more and more methadone and its come to a point, long ago, that was beyond what he needed and he is simply looking for a “buzz” so to say. He is abusing his rights at the clinic or either he has started using again. I really wish all you others that do not understand the meaning of methadone, would read up on it, and learn what all of us recovering addicts are going through. Yeah!! I made bad choices, but it is positive that I have realized my mistakes and I am looking to change that! Also, one more thing I forgot to mention, when us “addicts” intend on increasing our dose, we have to see a doctor and go through a physical. Once this happens, the results go through the manager and doctor, as well as through the director. For one to increase their dose far past what then need, they would have to lie and lie really good, before being increased. So in conclusion, Paul, your coworker is not on methadone anymore, and he has began using again. Period!!

  8. supervised methadone treatment is not dangerous anyone taking cough syrup with codine is a million times more dangerous

  9. The lack of empathy from some of these comments is disgusting. Many people on methadone were originally prescribed pain killers for injuries and ended up getting addicted through no fault of their own. According to some of you, their lives should be ruined for following a doctor’s orders. The world is a lot more complicated than your narrow little box.

  10. Max Wallach says:

    Really the problem is in what society deems a drug addict. I’m on methadone for two years. I never a day in my life decided hey I want to be a junkie. I broke my elbow in a sking accident and got hooked to prescription pain meds. The draw was strong and it happened before I even understood the nature of the drug I was on. No doctor ever sat me down and said hey this stuff is legal heroin ! The nature of the addiction is a lifelong nuaralogical disorder. Opiates rewire your brain to tell you that they come before everything else, I have never felt so scared so hopeless so lonely and so undone. Methadone is a promise that I don’t have to feel that way, it doesn’t get me high it does block other opiate from getting me high if I was to take something it would do nothing. I don’t want to take this forever but I take it to make sure temptation doesn’t take hold of my life. The judgement I carry is harsh considering I am doing the right thing and have been sober, not even a beer in the last two years.

  11. Arthur Byrne says:

    Its good to hear the truth from people who know addiction is a disease. It is also sad that there are so many closed minded people out there. What i see too much is someone with ABSOLUTELY NO education on methadone bash it as being a drug that gets its patients high. Before people open their mouth they need to do the research. Methadone makes a dangerous addict turn to a stable positive part of society. As with anything some people abuse the program, but that will show up when they fail drug test. Methadone clinics do constant random drug test and those who still use while on it do not advance in treatment. And this will show in the world and on employment drug test because anyone who has done the research will see that on drug test methadone is in a category all of its own. So if someone test positive for opiates and claims its the methadone is lying. You must specifically test for methadone to find it in ones system. Furthermore Ive noticed that most people who bash methadone are the weekend drinkers who party and then drive drunk creating dangers on the road. Or they have gambling addiction or other issues and just want to point fingers elsewhere to cover up their own problems from being brought to the spotlight. Its sad that such a positive element such as methadone that has saved the lives of so many addicts can be looked at so blindly and bashed so hard by uneducated people, especially employers.

  12. So I have been on 55mg methadone for almost three years..it literally saved my life. Tomorrow I am going for orientation and drug testing for a job that my family and I NEEd…I know that employers are not suppose to discriminate against recovering addicts on methadone or seeking treatment but I can’t lie I am very nervous…I have been praying hARD that this union will see past my past and see me fort work ethic and how much of an asset I may be to this company bc despite the fact that I am on methadon, my work ethic is one of a kind…prayers needed! I will keep everyone posted on how this works out.

    • Please keep us posted. I’m about to be in the same boat as you. I’ve been hired pending screen. I should be taking it within a week.

    • Max Melendez says:

      I went last week to take a urine test for a job I’m on methadone for the past year and of course the urine came back positive for Methadone the doctor calls me and tells me that I am high risk so I’m waiting for to see what the job is going to do first of all the doctor that told me this just took my urine she has nothing to do with me and my Methadone Program she does not even know how many milligrams are for her to just bash me and say that I’m high risk so I’m waiting for the job to get back to me to tell me what they’re going to do on the other hand I’m calling the lawyer to find out if I file a lawsuit for discrimination on this doctor because she has no idea how many milligrams are mon to say that I am at high risk please let me know how

  13. Everyone is untitled to their own opinion and sometimes there are people who join the methadone maintenance for the wrong reasons and I’m fully opposed to that but as I am a recovering addict and am in a methadone maintenance program and also a highly productive member of society working 2 jobs as a single mother I think individuals should be evaluated instead of lumping all of us together my levels are tested regularly and since I’m there to do better if I ever felt i was on too much i would ask to be reduced in my milligrams. Anyone that says being an addict is a choice is uneducated and should find out more information on the subject i was given my first drug at 8 years old and was already addicted by the time I knew what hit me and I did not choose to be addicted i listened to the adults who were giving them to me and when dare classes finally got to me i was 12 and had been using opiates 4 years and physically withdrawling without them and anyone who has gone through withdrawl knows noone chooses that furthermore if I had not gotten into this lifesaving program my 13 year old would be an orphan do your research before you judge

  14. I have a question if anybody out there can help that would be helpful…Im currently applying for a job for the IRON WORKERS UNION in Seattle Wa.Im currently tapering off methadone.I really want this job.when methadone shows up in my UA pre employment drug test will they not hire me??? Thanks

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