For people struggling with opiate addictions, methadone treatment offers a much-needed bridge between recovery and living normal, everyday lives. While methadone offers recovering addicts considerable relief during the detox stage of recovery, methadone maintenance treatment enables a person to resume employment, repair family relationships and remain actively engaged in his or her treatment process.
Employers considering hiring (or not hiring) someone who’s involved in a methadone program can benefit from knowing how methadone maintenance treatment works. Addiction’s classification as a disease has afforded recovering addicts certain legal protections, which hold both employers and employees accountable for meeting certain procedures and guidelines.
Opiate addictions all but warp brain chemical processes, leaving addicts in a perpetual state of physical and psychological distress. Without some means for stabilizing brain functions, recovering addicts have a slim chance of maintaining sobriety.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, methadone’s use as a medication-assisted treatment works to stabilize brain chemical processes while relieving drug cravings and withdrawal effects. Methadone treatment programs also require a person to engage in ongoing counseling and educational treatment as a means for developing a healthy mindset and lifestyle.
Even after addicts enter recovery, the effects of opiate addiction continue to impair their ability to function in normal, everyday life. For this reason, federal laws (the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act) have been put in place to protect people receiving medication-assisted treatment from discriminatory practices in the workplace.
These protections prohibit employers from disqualifying qualified job applicants based on the presence of an addiction problem when said applicants are actively engaged in treatment. Federal protection laws apply for any business that employs 15 or more employees at a time.
Employer responsibilities to employees receiving methadone treatment are, for the most part, the same as those afforded to any other employee in the organization. Since methadone program participants are required to attend ongoing counseling and educational treatment, employers must attempt to accommodate these requirements provided doing so doesn’t cause undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship refers to any excess expenses or inconvenience that would result from making needed accommodations.
Drug Testing Provisions
While federal laws do limit what employers can ask regarding an applicant’s medical history, drug testing is not considered a form of “medical examination.” This provision allows employees to require drug testing in cases where a job applicant is under methadone treatment care.
Employers can also drug test current employees receiving treatment provided other employees of the same rank or job category will also be tested. As methadone can show up on certain types of drug tests, employers are within their rights to require an employee to submit documentation that he or she is currently receiving methadone treatment.
Since methadone treatment meets the criteria for “medical necessity” under the law, employees receiving treatment can take medical leaves for addiction-related conditions. Three federal laws address issues surrounding medical leaves and addiction treatment –
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Rehabilitation Act
- The Family and Medical Leave Act
In essence, addiction’s classification as a medical condition works in much the same way as a physical disability. As long as employers ensure people in treatment receive the same employment opportunities as everyone else, employers have fulfilled their legal requirements.