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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  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.

    • People on methadone are already drug tested at least twice a month.

      • Not true. At most clinics it depends on how long it’s been since the persons last sorry urine screening. So if someone has not given a positive for say 3 months they may only be tested once a month or if they been clean over a year they may be tested less. Which could give them opportunity to use without getting caught but in those cases usually the person is past using and just wants to stay Clean

        • Not true @Dana Every patient at the methadone clinic test the same amount of times a month just random days no matter how long you’ve been going there

        • Yea, laws governing methadone programs require each patient, regardless of time at program be randomly tested a minimum once every 30 days…and actually people who have been on the program for a long time, get tested even more then people with less time..because usually those people get more take-homes, and with take-homes youre monitored even more

        • Not true in methadone treatment u are tested at least once a month no matter what

        • I have been giving clean samples for over a year but still have to give 2 samples a month, It is true

          • After you reach a certain phase in your program, you only get a once a month at random drug screen. and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the program… your phase gets increased by the amount of times since your first negative drug screen. and also, if you are at a higher phase and only come once a month, you definitely don’t get tested more because your only there once a month. every clinic has their own policies, but not every client is definitely getting tested twice a month… only at the beginning phases when you have 0, 1, or maybe 2 take home bottles. most places each time you get a bottle, your phase increases and the requirements for the amont of drug tests, individual counseling session, and group counseling sessions decrease. then once you get to the highest phase where you come once a month because you get a months worth of bottles your requirements are you get drug tested the day you pick up your bottles, you probably aren’t required to go to group counseling, and only have to check in with your counslor every few months. Like i said, every clinic is different and may have more requirements, but that’s how minimal they can get.

        • After you reach a certain phase in your program, you only get a once a month at random drug screen. and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the program… your phase gets increased by the amount of times since your first negative drug screen. and also, if you are at a higher phase and only come once a month, you definitely don’t get tested more because your only there once a month. every clinic has their own policies, but not every client is definitely getting tested twice a month… only at the beginning phases when you have 0, 1, or maybe 2 take home bottles. most places each time you get a bottle, your phase increases and the requirements for the amont of drug tests, individual counseling session, and group counseling sessions decrease. then once you get to the highest phase where you come once a month because you get a months worth of bottles your requirements are you get drug tested the day you pick up your bottles, you probably aren’t required to go to group counseling, and only have to check in with your counslor every few months. Like i said, every clinic is different and may have more requirements, but that’s how minimal they can get.

          • I’ve been in the MAT program for over 4.5 years. I am randomly drug tested at the clinic at least 2x per month due to the fact that I have two week (phase 13) of take homes. There would be no way for me to pass a drug test. They catch drugs in your system sometimes a week after they were done. There really is no way to get away with it. The counselors also have really good intuition when someone is using and will ask to ua you if they suspect you of it. just because I am on methadone do not render me unemployable. I am in the best place in my life. Methadone has saved my life quite literally.. And every clinic is very different but they all have to meet and follow very specific guidelines when for the local state government and US government.

        • I take a drug test every week at my clinic in Chicago

    • Denise Brown says:

      I’m a methadone nurse, and methadone is one of the most abused opiates. Even though an applicant produces a prescription, doesn’t exclude him from being considered an opiate addict. Remember, methadone is an opiate, so unless the applicant can show that methadone is being used as a detoxing tool, they are simply exchanging one addiction for another.

    • I agree with testing employees, but if your going to test, then test everyone! honestly the odds of someone in a methadone program failing an employers test is probably LESS likely because they get tested in the program and actually have more to loose like their bottles if they fail. how about the rest of the employees that may do other drugs… im sure theres plenty of them! that’s saying that the only people likely to fail a drug test at work are the employees on methadone, which is absolutely nuts. that actually contradicts you saying the employer has an obligation to protect all employees. they would actually be protecting everyone BUT the people on methadone because what if one of the other employees cause an accident!?

    • Robert Phillips says:

      I think you don’t understand. It is a disability. Making someone drug test and pay for it whenever they want is punishing them for a disability. Plus in a methadone clinic you are tested at least once a month. I live in Michigan and I am currently in a methadone clinic.

  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 😊

        • Garrett M Cardenas says:

          After reading comments back to 2017 its obvious there is a divide amongst those in favor (typically those being treated) and those opposed(typically non treated).Personally I would be associated with the non treated group but that alone is not why Ive had a difficult time accepting methadone as a treatment for those with the “disease of addiction”. Majority of the commenters mention there addictions stemmed from the use of perscribed pain mediction more specifically opiods. However there is an entire different group of individuals who are being prescribed methadone who never were prescribed opiods for pain treatment. These individuals elected , made a choice a decision to use herion. Regardless of the reason they did so by choice. So in theory these individuals infected themselves with the disease of addiction. There are very few if any family, friends, children, spouse’s that have not been impacted negatively from the selfish , choicec of a loved one who decided to ise heroin. Now the health department or medicsl field excuses everything that these individuals have put their loved ones through by justifying the use of herion to be a disease. Im sorry I dont see the logic from this perspective. When my estranged wife can seriously ridicule my unwillingness to accept her behavior during her “addiction” by comparing her “disease” to that of someone with cancer is out right ridiculous. After watching my new born baby girl have to go through the withdrawal symptoms for 3 weels before she could come home I cant see why the same shouldnt be expected of the mother who was responsible . Bottomline if you made a decision to stick a needle in your arm and inject herion you owe it to those you hurt , disregard, disrespected including yourself the real effort towards sobriety. From my perspective substituting herion with methadone is just a cop out for you not to accept responsibility.

      • 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!!!!

      • thank you sir, could not have said it better!

      • Bless you, Dustin.
        As for the stigmas attached to methadone maintenance clients… In this day and age I’m overwrought with disgust that it’s STILL being used as an excuse to kick the STRONG, WILLING & MOTIVATED TO STAY OFF OPIOIDS As hard as they’re all kicked.
        Methadone SAVES LIVES. It is a God-sent to those with either chronic pain or crippled by opioid addiction.
        I do not utter the words: “God bless America” anymore.
        Our country is so broken, & recovering addicts have it the worst.

      • Betty Jane Hutzell says:

        I agree Dustin its really hard to quit the pills ,I had alot of surgeries in one year and that started my downward spiral. I’m only 4 days clean but believe me it’s really really hard and as long as the person like myself really wants the help I’m all for alternatives so someone can quit

      • Maria Gil says:

        I’m so happy you said that! It is so insensitive of someone who thinks that way just because they don’t have that problem and want to ruin things for everyone else. Selfish people in the world. I have never had a drop of alcohol or have I ever done illegal drugs. I had cancer and got addicted to pain killers. Thank God for methadone. I wish the people who criticize us never experienced similar issues because no one deserves to suffer this way. Addiction is NOT a personal choice. Most people will agree!!!

    • 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.

      • Nicole Pizzino says:

        It’s crazy how these people who have no understanding of the fact that methadone does not impair is, it allows us to feel normal and to be functioning members of society. These same people that don’t think recovering addicts deserve the right to have the same job opportunities are the same people who are quick to say they are lazy and milking the system and have to turn to medical assistance and food stamps for themselves and their children when no one wants to hire them because of their past or because they are on MMT. Addiction is so rampant in our country. Everyone knows someone or has a family member who has been affected by it. It’s time to stop judging and keeping the struggles of addiction behind closed doors. We need to start offering hiring and supporting those affected instead of doing everything to make it harder for addicts to recover and have a successful happy life.

    • So what your saying that alcoholics and drug addicts do not have a disease but obese people do? Over weight is caused by personal decisions too. So you are saying employers can discriminate against fat people?

    • I have lupus and was put on opiates for pain managment.. never chose anything…. then my dr dropped me so i got on methadone. Most people started out on scripts from a doctor and were clueless that your body would become dependent on them.

  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.

    • With every Methadone clinic you are tested frequently so, it’s already done on a monthly bases.

  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

    • Huh? If he’s using bad language and being dishonest, why don’t you fire him for THAT? And if he’s truly affected by his methadone dose, he’s on too high of a dose. Either way, you should be holding him accountable for his behavior, NOT be making stereotypical assumptions about methadone treatment itself. I was in a boating accident and the trauma center put me on Fentanyl patches and OxyContin for 6 months. Going off of it would have put me through a worse withdrawal than heroin… so I was placed on methadone. I successfully completed the program in 3 years and have been opioid free ever since. Without methadone, I wouldn’t have been able to work and support my family. I was VP of Operations, making just over 100k a year, and methadone did not affect me in the least… in fact, it saved me. Odds are, the employee you’re talking about is just a crappy person, with or without a substance abuse problem. Stop blaming the methadone and try holding him accountable for his behavior.

  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.

    • I agree it’s not the drugs that makes him vulgar it’s his personality. I’m on soboxen and I work 7 days a week for up to 3 months at a time and always treat people with respect

  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 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

  15. How do any of you feel about a methadone user driving a school bus with your children on it.
    Do the persons details matter?

    • My husband drives our four children to and from school and to the park and to sports, etc…he is sober and making the right choices in life. He also operates the oven and stove at home, eek! And the lawnmower, eek again! Come on!!!

      • Best. Comment. Ever!!!! Thank you for standing up for us. We’re not a bunch of people standing in line everyday to “get high”. We’re standing there to NOT get high! And as a person on MMT, who, after a brain surgery and 3 back surgeries, needed to stop all my pain meds, Methadone literally saved my life. As everyone else who has said that already in the thread. It IS a lifesaver. And yes, it’s shocking but we drive our children around, work and I myself personally operate the oven and washing machine and everything!!!!? Eeeeek! 👆 Like she said!!!

  16. Well there’s a big problem here and frankly I’m not quite sure how the DOT and FRA are getting away with not allowing employment to prescribed methadone patients. Now I’m not even arguing whether there’s an impairment involved but as far as the medical census is concerned there is not impairment if taken as prescribed. The problem is there’s no current studies or laws specifically outlining the testing and prohibition of methadone.

    This is clearly outlined in DOT Rule 49 CFR Part 40 Section 40.85

    As a laboratory, you must test for the following five drugs or classes of drugs in a DOT drug test. You must not test “DOT specimens” for any other drugs.
    (a) Marijuana metabolites.
    (b) Cocaine metabolites.
    (c) Amphetamines.
    (d) Opioids.
    (e) Phencyclidine (PCP).
    [as amended 82 FR 52244, November 13, 2017]
    The Department of Transportation is amending its drug-testing program regulation to add hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone to its drug-testing panel; add methylenedioxyamphetamine as an initial test analyte; and remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine as a confirmatory test analyte. The revision of the drug-testing panel harmonizes DOT regulations with the revised HHS Mandatory Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal drug-testing programs for urine testing. This final rule clarifies certain existing drug-testing program provisions and definitions, makes technical amendments, and removes the requirement for employers and Consortium/Third Party Administrators to submit blind specimens.
    This rule is effective on January 1, 2018.

    Now companies and employers with “Safety Sensitive” positions such as a Locomotive Engineer have been using the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 as a go around to prohibit use prescribed or not, actually even OTC medication such as cold medicine would fall in this category because of possible impairing side effects.
    However The Department of Labor ended the drug-free workplace program in 2010. Accordingly, it does not currently administer a “Workplace drug testing” advisory web page and is not responsible for 3rd party sites.
    Go even further I’ve searched info about Methadone and informational websites are claiming there’s no basis to be concerned for impairments or at least there’s nothing proving it.

    This is taken directly from a FAQ about Methadone:

    Will methadone show up on a drug test?
    Methadone will not result in a positive test for opiates such as morphine or heroin. The only way for a company or other organization to detect methadone is to test for it specifically, which is not a common practice.

    People who are participating in approved methadone maintenance programs are not abusing an illegal drug. In fact, methadone patients are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means that methadone use cannot be used to deny employment.

    Will taking methadone affect my ability to drive a car?
    The law does not prohibit methadone patients from operating motor vehicles or other forms of machinery. When taken as prescribed, methadone does not produce sedation or intoxication.

    Now some of the sites list extreme drowsiness as a side effect but that’s in the category “Contact your physician immediately if you have any of these side effects”.
    Heck even Tylenol has a warning to contact a physician in extreme cases. Again though how are they refusing employment to methadone patients being the 1988 act is technically moot according to the department of labor.
    The CFR’s are the legal binding law jargon which all the operating rules are derived from whether they’re Railroad regulations, DOT regulations , and FRA enforced and collaborated by committees such as NORAC which again are basically the CFR’s legal jargon put into a more layman Rule Based form for purposes of operating rules, training and testing. As an example Rule G in NORAC operating rules is the iteration of CFR’s covered in Title 49 Subtitle B Chapter II 219.

    Everything from Inspections, Safety devices, Brake systems, Operating Rules, and any regulations what so ever to do with the Railroad are in the CFR’s Title 49 Subtitle B Chapter II in it’s entirety. With that being said those are the laws in place currently and even with the recent amendments in 2017 effective in Jan 1st 2018 methadone isn’t listed to be tested for. Which means it should very well be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. So from a legal standpoint not sure how they’re getting away with it.

    Moving back to the land of what actually is or reality the DOT and FRA are not medically qualifying people prescribed or otherwise for employment. Which personally I think is a good thing or at least to an extent.
    My position is this, it depends on the individual and the dosages involved. People function just fine a the correct dosage. However a lot of people aren’t on the correct dosage because they’re not honest with their maintenance program provider or physician!
    I know from experience as a methadone recipient on a higher dosage it indeed makes you drowsy and if anyone else tells you otherwise they’re lying.
    However when I came down to a lower dosage can’t even tell I’m taking anything except for the fact I have slightly less pain, no withdrawal symptoms, and no impairments such as nodding out etc..
    So I think there should be dosage limits which can vary from person to person and the size of the person isn’t as important as you think but more of a tolerance issue. If your tolerances are very high then you need more but that’s not to say that tolerance can’t be decreased over time. With that said there should be an absolute maximum dosage that varies on how safety sensitive your position entails.
    Example if you need a CDL for moving product or heavy equipment operation such as a mining equipment position I don’t think is as devastating as a Locomotive Engineer working passenger service doing 100-150MPH down the North East Corridor with over a million pounds of steel and hauling 1,000 passengers/lives.
    As a Locomotive engineer I personally wouldn’t want anything impairing in my system just for my own self preservation and sanity. I wouldn’t want to be in any position where I would constantly be second guessing or asking myself “What if?” if god forbid anything happened. Whether it was directly my fault or not especially involving trespasser fatalities when the majority if not almost all of the time is the trespassers fault either by accident or on purpose. I still wouldn’t want to be food for someones lawyer either.
    I would think a majority of people would feel this way but there’s always that percentage of people that are selfish, in denial, or even just very much misinformed..

    So there needs to be a much more serious discussion among the people working in these positions, employers, medical studies by qualified physicians, and the Law makers in the legislation process. Once this is done by all involved and concerned parties that’s when this will be rectified.

  17. Scott Ted DuPriest says:

    My concern is we are a manufacturing plant that has machinery and equipment that can cause serious injuries if not operated according to training and the manufacture to not only the operator but other employees. My opinion is that as a policy we do not allow persons to qualify to operate such equipment and machinery under the influence and any drug.

  18. Cameron Congleton says:

    I don’t understand how he tested positive for methadone. Methadone doesn’t show up on a. Regular drug panel. It has to tested for specifically, just like suboxone. I’m pretty sure that company doesn’t spend money on specifically testing for methadone plus a regular test. I’m also having a problem. I was offered a aviation maintenance tech job at Boeing. They’re making it very difficult for me. I have to get this form filled out and signed by the prescribing doctor pretty much stating if he thinks I am a liability working around power tools and heavy machinery. But the way they worded the document makes it sound that if anything were to happen regardless if it were due to the medication or not then the doctor would be held liable. So of course he won’t sign it. The nurse from Boeing told me that they can’t not hire me for being on methadone. And then I said, but if I don’t get this document signed then I won’t be cleared medically and my job offer will be rescinded? She said that was also correct. That’s a catch 22 if I’ve ever seen one. I was out on a copious amount of painkillers after I was wounded in Afghanistan in 2011. Was tired of being dependent on them so I turned to methadone. I should have never even said anything.

  19. Im also in a methadone program its been 3 yrs now and it has saved my life, I recently took a urine for a job offer & im waiting for the response but im so nervous there going to resend their offer.

  20. At my clinic regardless of how long you’ve been there or what phase your in you get tested twice a month. True, some people only have xome once month due take home privileges,however, they call you in for random bottle checks and drug screens.