The Addicted Professional: What Employees and Bosses Need to Know | Harbor Village - Harbor Village

The Addicted Professional: What Employees and Bosses Need to Know

If every one in ten Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol, why don’t we hear more stories about companies stepping up to help quell substance use disorders? A company with 100 employees- according to the statistics presented in 2010 by Drug Free– should employ at least ten people with substance use disorders.

Are companies doing all they can to help treat addiction? Should they be obligated to, or morally compelled? Would doing so cripple company profits? Moreover, should companies be compelled to help treat mental health disorders? What about physical conditions?

In an idealistic world, companies would step up to care for their employees like pseudo family members; after all, wouldn’t that inspire loyalty and translate into better work performance? Unfortunately, for companies and employees both, this isn’t always the case. Although there are laws protecting individuals with a history of substance use disorders, there are gaps for those in the active throes of addiction.

Here’s a breakdown about what you as an employee can do to both get treatment and keep your job– and what employers can do to help accommodate those suffering with addiction while strengthening company policies. (You know addiction isn’t going away, right boss?)

Rights Granted to People with Substance Use Disorders in the Workplace

We can’t all be lucky enough to work for one of the best drug and alcohol rehabilitation powerhouses in the nation, but there are rights afforded to you and your loved ones who are experiencing substance abuse or addiction.

I will say, right off the bat, there is a distinction between those who are experiencing casual substance use, and those who are suffering from chronic addiction. People deemed casual users are not typically afforded the same protections as those who are suffering from advanced stages of “substance use.”

Addiction is measured by the physical necessity of an addictive substance to ensure biological homeostasis (or rather, an altered form of it, spurred from the use of addictive substances). Casual use is just as it sounds- but remember every drug addict was a substance abuser at one point. As of right now, there are few treatment options compelled on the federal level in the workplace to abate instances of substance abuse. Future policies would benefit exponentially to implement preventative programs.

Here’s the rub in the workplace, straight from the horse’s mouth:

“The ADA provides that any employee or job applicant who is “currently engaging” in the illegal use of drugs is not a “qualified individual with a disability.”[6] Therefore, an employee who illegally uses drugs—whether the employee is a casual user or an addict—is not protected by the ADA if the employer acts on the basis of the illegal drug use.[7] As a result, an employer does not violate the ADA by uniformly enforcing its rules prohibiting employees from illegally using drugs.[8]

In a nutshell, if you’re an addict who hasn’t completed rehabilitation, you’re not protected by laws enacted to “protect” people with substance use disorders. Isn’t that nice? The only ones truly protected by the ADA from losing their jobs are:

  • Those who have completed rehabilitation, and are abstaining from use
  • Those currently in rehabilitation, and are abstaining from use
  • Those wrongly accused of using illicit drugs

But here’s what you can do as someone struggling with addiction, according to Samhsa:

  • Take medical leave to go to rehabilitation
  • Request job training & placement services
  • Employers must make reasonable accommodations to help you perform your duties on site
  • You are protected from discrimination for having substance abuse on your record (in terms of employment, or termination)
  • If you believe your rights are being infringed upon file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights
  • You may also file a lawsuit in Federal or State Court

What Employers Can Do About Addiction in the Workplace (You’ll Be the Best Boss Ever)

If company policy says drug and alcohol use on site is prohibited, that’s the law of the land. Asking employees to adhere to company policy is 100% within the rights of employers for the safety of their livelihood, and the safety of workers.

If companies suspect current drug use they are within their rights to ascertain the nature of use and fire those who are not protected under ADA laws. But, if you could make a difference as an employer, wouldn’t you want to?

Instead of firing someone who may be, or could have the potential to be, your best worker, consider implementing treatment policies like these:

  • Fund, or contribute to, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation
  • Hire a drug counselor for your HR department
  • Outsource a drug counselor
  • Be human and talk to your employee/s
  • Help employees struggling with both substance abuse and addiction create goals
  • Offer incentives for clean drug tests
  • Host AA meetings or similar drug groups
  • Collaborate with local organizations for drug education and programs employees can participate in
  • Allow leave for completion of rehabilitation
  • Evaluate employee responsibilities and re-assign to mitigate stress (ie: eliminating tasks which interact with drugs or alcohol)
  • Ask what said employee needs- they may surprise you

What are your suggestions for new company policies?


Further Reading:

How to Wrangle a Job After Rehab

Binge Drinker, Food Addict, Turned Drug Rehab Counselor

5 Celebrities that Struggled with Drug Addiction

Addiction Treatment for Adults: Focus Track

8 Wearable Fashions for Guys & Girls After Rehab

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