In spite of its use as an opiate addiction treatment for over five decades, discriminatory workplace practices targeting people in methadone treatment still exist. While an overall lack of understanding may account for these practices, people receiving methadone treatment nonetheless have certain rights and protections under the law.
As drug addiction, in general, falls under certain federally recognized protections, the more a person knows about methadone treatment the better prepared he or she is to address employer concerns. Ultimately, knowing your rights as a methadone treatment recipient can go a long way towards ensuring you’re treated fairly in the workplace.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment
Methadone maintenance treatment offers a range of therapeutic effects that enable recovering addicts to function effectively in daily life. According to the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, methadone works by occupying the same brain cell receptor sites as addiction opiate drugs. By doing so, methadone effects can relief the ongoing drug cravings and withdrawal aftereffects that result from chronic opiate abuse. In effect, methadone maintenance treatment works to stabilize chemical imbalances in the brain and restore normal physical and psychological functioning.
Substance abuse disorders fall under the “disabilities” classification under federal laws. Both the Federal Rehabilitation Act (FRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discriminatory practices in the workplace on the basis of disability. As a type of disability, these statutes work to protect people actively participating in some form of drug treatment. These laws apply for private employers who have 15 or more employees as well as state and federal employers. Federal protections work to ensure people with disabilities are treated in the same way as anyone else in the workplace.
Your Rights in the Workplace
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, federal protections require employers to abide by certain rule when considering job applicants who receive methadone treatment. These protections also carry over once a person starts working for an employer.
Employer responsibilities include:
- Cannot deny employment or terminate an employee on the basis of him or her receiving methadone treatment
- Must make reasonable accommodations for a person’s treatment needs in terms of him or her being able to attend therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments or any other form of treatment related to his or her recovery
- Allowing leaves of absence
- Allowing for modified work schedules when necessary
- Job restructuring options
Under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, employers can only go so far when inquiring into an employee’s or job applicant’s medical history, however these protections do not prohibit employers from performing random drug testing. In the event that a drug test does come up positive, employees are required to produce documentation that shows they’re currently receiving methadone treatment.
Medical Leave Provisions
It’s not uncommon for someone on methadone treatment to require periodic dosage adjustments to ensure the drug is working as it should. In some instances, this may require an employee to take a medical leave. Under federal law, employers cannot base a denial of medical leave on anything having to do with methadone treatment.
While workplace discrimination practices may still exist, employees receiving methadone treatment do have certain rights and protections in place.