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I’m Recovering from an Opioid Addiction. Am I Protected from Workplace Discrimination?

July 28, 2023 | Employment Law

So many people have overcome their addiction only to find their past addiction is a current problem. They encounter employers and supervisors who are not conversant in addiction and treatment. Employers flounder with the lack of concise protocols for their employees who are receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Not knowing exactly how to discern if an employee is impaired is made more vague by lack of a national information campaign about Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).


And it’s tough to find employment in the first place. Many employers decide it’s easier to hire someone else rather than tackling the unfamiliar. Some have real concerns for the safety of their employees because the jobs or machinery are a dangerous responsibility; coupled with their lack of knowledge, they hire someone else.


In August of 2020 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided guidance for employees receiving treatment and in April of 2022 the Department of Justice published a thorough FAQ sheet about combating discrimination against people in treatment or recovery. The EEOC said it’s received more than 200 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) charges involving opioid issues since 2019, and, since publishing their guidance, the agencies combined have recovered at least $520,000 in damages and back pay for employees and applicants who said they were discriminated against due to their treatment.


Millions of Americans are affected by Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated over 80,000 opioid overdose deaths last year. The opioid epidemic shows no signs of slowing.


As states and municipalities begin distributing the $54 billion in opioid crisis litigation settlements, the number of clinics that are able to administer drugs to assist in weaning people with addictions to legal and illegal painkillers will increase. There are more than 2,000 programs already in existence providing MAT to over half a million patients, a strong increase over the previous year. The future will see more employees in treatment for OUD, and unfortunately until we all understand OUD, more employees will experience discrimination.


If you have been fired for legally prescribed medication-assisted treatment or your employer refuses reasonable accommodations to facilitate your treatment, contact the experienced attorneys at Lavi & Ebrahimian, LLP. Real trial attorneys for employee rights.