Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

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Latest post 12-23-2010 10:17 AM by Sharon - Community Moderator (Admin). 28 replies.
  • 12-20-2010 3:33 AM

    Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    I'm sorry if this is long but I have to include all information.

    I work at a daycare where I have worked for 3 years without any problems. The kids love me and I get along well with coworkers and parents. There has never been a problem.

    Last week I was driving the daycare van while running some errands (no kids in the van, fortunately). It was very slippery outside and in a curve the van slid and hit a light pole. It was nothing serious, just a dent and a scratch, but according to company policy I had to take a drug and alcohol test because I had an accident. I didn't think much of it since the only thing I take is prescribed and it had nothing to do with the accident. I've driven this van with and without kids hundreds of times without any problems. I took the test and a few days later i get a call from my boss to come in for a meeting since my test was positive for methadone.

    I do take methadone. I used to have an addiction to pain killers so I got into a methadone program and have been clean and sober with the help of methadone for almost 10 years. The methadone doesn't cause any kind of impairment or high so I function just like normal so the fact that I take methadone should not be an issue. I explained all this and more to my boss but she apparently thought that me taking methadone is an issue. Because of this I am now suspended while they consider what to do and I'm really scared that they will fire me.

    I'm wondering if they can legally fire me for being on methadone? My boss seem to think that I may not be okay to take care of kids even if I'm not driving. I know that the methadone does not cause any problems with my driving, the accident was due to icy roads, but I still told the boss that I would be fine with not driving their van again if they don't feel comfortable with me driving it. But the boss is not sure if I'm "safe" to be around the kids.

    What are my rights here? The methadone is prescribed so it's not like I'm using drugs. I am drug tested at my clinic randomly every month so I can prove that I've been clean for years. Methadone does not affect me more than apple juice does when it comes to impairment.

    If I am fired what can I do? I feel that they are discriminating against me because I'm on methadone and a former addict.

    Please help! I love my job and I want to keep it.

    Thank you

  • 12-20-2010 4:21 AM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    Unfortunately, they can fire you for being on methadone for treatment of being a former drug addict.  sorry. 

  • 12-20-2010 9:28 AM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    Methadone is a narcotic.  Side effects include drowsiness and euphoria.  Yes, they can fire you for being "under the influence" while at work, particularly while driving, even if it's a prescribed medication.

    If you've been taking methadone for 10 years, then you almost certainly have an addiction to methadone.  You may wan to discuss this with your doctor.

  • 12-20-2010 11:40 AM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    Scared Employee:
    What are my rights here?

    None.

    Scared Employee:
    The methadone is prescribed so it's not like I'm using drugs

    Yes, it's exactly like you are using drugs.

    Scared Employee:
    I am drug tested at my clinic randomly every month so I can prove that I've been clean for years. Methadone does not affect me more than apple juice does when it comes to impairment.

    Then you are in denial. You've been using methadone for 10 years. You are likely addicted to it and not admitting it. That's bad.

    Study up:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=methadone+addiction&aq=f&aqi=g9g-m1&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

    Scared Employee:
    If I am fired what can I do?

    Apply for unemployment compensation. However, drug use might disqualify you. I don't know.

    Scared Employee:
    I feel that they are discriminating against me because I'm on methadone and a former addict.

    That kind of discrimination is perfectly legal.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 12-20-2010 12:47 PM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment...

    • Locked

    Beth is right - methadone is a narcotic; I'd nave problems with a narcotic addict caring for children as well.

    I doubt it is a protected activity.

  • 12-20-2010 2:34 PM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    No, I'm not on drugs, I'm not in denial, I'm not addicted to methadone and I don't get any euphoria or drowsiness from my methadone. Clearly you guys are not familiar with methadone maintenance. It's not rare for people to be maintained on methadone for a long time. It's estimated that about 10% of methadone patients will have to be taking it for life. Studies show that the longer a person is in methadone treatment the better his chances are of living a normal, drug free life. The risk of relapse is pretty high for people who get off methadone and I'm not willing to risk that. I've worked too hard to get to where I am and I'm happy with my current life. I don't ever want to go back to being addicted to drugs and if that means that I have to take methadone every day for a long time than so be it. It does in no way mean that I'm addicted to methadone. I'm not. I know what addiction is and this is not it. Would you say to a diabetic that he is addicted to insulin because he has to take it every day for life?

    Opiate addicts have a brain disorder which causes the brain not to produce enough endorphines which is the body's own morphine. That causes the person to crave opiates to a point where they lose control over themselves in addition to several other problems like depression. Since the addict doesn't produce enough natural endorphines they can be replaced with artificial ones in the form of methadone. Technically it works similar to diabetes and insulin.

    I see my doctor regularly and my counselor monthly. All my treatment decisions are made in conjunction with them and they are very qualified people and well educated in the field addiction treatment and medicine. They know what they are doing and they know that I'm not addicted to methadone. I am physically dependent on it but that's not the same as addicted.

    Also, I'm not "under the influence" when I take it. Methadone only causes euphoria and drowsiness in people who are not used to taking it. But if you take the same dose of methadone every day you don't get any high or impairment. In fact, you don't feel anything from it at all. This is why it's such a useful medication for treating addicts. Here is more info about it if you want to hear it from someone but me http://www.medicalassistedtreatment.org/57642/index.html

    Either way, I wasn't looking for anyone's opinion about my treatment. I was looking for legal advice to find out if I can be fired simply for being on methadone treatment. I know that you can be fired for being under the influence at work but I am NOT under the influence and I can prove that so that's not something they can fire me for. I've worked there for three years so if I was under the influence from my methadone I think they would have noticed it by now, don't you think?

    A woman at my clinic told me that my employer can't fire me for being on methadone because that's protected under the Americans with disabilities act. Is that not true? She said that it's illegal to discriminate against methadone patients under this law. Is she wrong? Methadone maintenance is considered a medical treatment. I find it hard to believe that they could fire me for recieving medical treatment.

    I'm going to do some further research on this 'cause I think you guys are wrong.

     

  • 12-20-2010 2:50 PM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment...

    • Locked

    Was that woman an employment lawyer?

    The ONLY condition that automatically qualifies under the ADA is AIDS.

    Most forms of discrimination are perfectly legal.

  • 12-20-2010 3:36 PM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment...

    • Locked

    Discrimination due to a person's disability, if it's considered a disability under the ADA, is illegal. I did some research and it appears that you guys are wrong. My employer cannot fire me for being on methadone maintenance.

     

    The following is from ada.gov  (http://www.ada.gov/taman2.html#II-2.3000)

    II-2.3000 Drug addiction as an impairment. Drug addiction is an impairment under the ADA. A public entity, however, may base a decision to withhold services or benefits in most cases on the fact that an addict is engaged in the current and illegal use of drugs.

     

    What is "illegal use of drugs"? Illegal use of drugs means the use of one or more drugs, the possession or distribution of which is unlawful under the Controlled Substances Act. It does not include use of controlled substances pursuant to a valid prescription, or other uses that are authorized by the Controlled Substances Act or other Federal law. Alcohol is not a "controlled substance," but alcoholism is a disability.

     

    What is "current use"? "Current use" is the illegal use of controlled substances that occurred recently enough to justify a reasonable belief that a person's drug use is current or that continuing use is a real and ongoing problem. A public entity should review carefully all the facts surrounding its belief that an individual is currently taking illegal drugs to ensure that its belief is a reasonable one.

     

    Does title II protect drug addicts who no longer take controlled substances? Yes. Title II prohibits discrimination against drug addicts based solely on the fact that they previously illegally used controlled substances. Protected individuals include persons who have successfully completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program or have otherwise been rehabilitated successfully and who are not engaging in current illegal use of drugs. Additionally, discrimination is prohibited against an individual who is currently participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and is not engaging in current illegal use of drugs. Finally, a person who is erroneously regarded as engaging in current illegal use of drugs is protected.

    Here is more info that specifically talks about methadone: (http://www.ncadd-sfv.org/profiles/disability.html)

    What Protections Against Discrimination are Provided to Individuals With Drug and Alcohol Impairments?


    Many employers do not realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with drug and alcohol problems against discrimination in employment. This confusion exists because the ADA imposes some special requirements for the employment of individuals with current drug problems.

    People with past drug or alcohol problems are protected from job discrimination by the ADA, as are persons with current alcohol problems who are able to perform their job. The only individuals with drug and alcohol problems who do not have the same rights as others with disabilities are those who currently use drugs illegally.

    The ADA specifically excludes from the definitions of "individual with a disability" any employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use. This includes individuals who use illicit drugs as well as those who use prescription medications unlawfully. Individuals who use drugs under the supervision of a licensed health care professional -- such as methadone -- are not using drugs illegally, and therefore could be protected against discrimination.

    Although individuals with current drug problems are not protected, the ADA specifically protects individuals who are participating in a supervised drug rehabilitation program or who have completed a treatment program or have been rehabilitated through self-help groups, employee assistance programs or any other type of rehabilitation, and are no longer using drugs.

    In addition, the ADA protects individuals who are erroneously perceived as abusing drugs illegally, but are not doing so. Because of societal attitudes about drug abuse, many individuals who have had drug problems in the past are perceived as still being drug dependent. Similarly, individuals who participate in methadone maintenance programs are also often perceived as drug dependent, even though methadone is a lawfully prescribed medication and individuals who participate in a methadone maintenance program are able to do every task -- even safety- related tasks -- that a person who is not receiving such treatment can do. These individuals are protected against discrimination under the ADA.

     

    I think this my friend was right even though she's not a lawyer, and the person who is a lawyer is wrong. I was hoping to get advice here from people who really know what they are talking about.

  • 12-20-2010 3:42 PM In reply to

    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment...

    • Locked

    if it's considered a disability under the ADA

    That is a VERY big if. Since your "addiction" is no longer active I think there's a very strong argument that your "condition" is NOT covered by the ADA.

  • 12-20-2010 5:19 PM In reply to

    You may have a good ADA claim if you are fired.

    • Locked

    Scared Employee:

    If I am fired what can I do? I feel that they are discriminating against me because I'm on methadone and a former addict.

    Please help! I love my job and I want to keep it.

    Once again, I am in the position of having to disagree with the other respondents on this board, who are evidently not familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your addiction to the pain killers that the methadone is meant to treat may well be disability under the Act. If the methadone is not causing you to suffer any difficulties in meeting the requirements of the job (which seems evident since you've done the job successfully for the past 3 years) then firing you for using a LEGAL drug that is prescribed to treat your disability is a violation of the ADA. Indeed, the EEOC in it's 2008 annual report mentioned that it had actually sued an employer for firing an employee for using methadone, specifically the report said:

    "In EEOC v. Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging Inc. (W.D. Wash. May 28, 2008), EEOC alleged that a Longview, Washington pulp and paper manufacturer withdrew an offer for an engineering aide position (a largely sedentary job performed at a computer) because the applicant used methadone to manage the pain he suffers from a spinal injury. Defendant offered the applicant the position in June 2006 subject to a physical examination and drug screening; defendant’s doctor then determined that his “narcotic use” and spinal injury posed unacceptable safety risks. The applicant had been prescribed methadone for about 4 years, did not experience any physical or mental side effects from its use, and had been cleared for the engineering aid position by his doctor, who indicated that the methadone caused the applicant no impairment. A 2-year consent decree provided the applicant $175,000 in compensatory damages."

    If the employer threatens termination, you wish to bring this case to your employer's attention. My guess is that your employer is no more informed on how the ADA works in this circumstance than the other folks who chimed in on this thread telling you there is no recourse if fired for methadone use. If you are indeed fired, file a complaint with the EEOC and see an employment law attorney for assistance. You may indeed have recourse here.

  • 12-20-2010 6:02 PM In reply to

    IF it falls under the ADA

    • Locked

    The employer cannot assume that it will.

  • 12-20-2010 6:31 PM In reply to

    Re: IF it falls under the ADA

    • Locked

    Lynn, as a lawyer, given the EEOC's position in the cited case and the fact it obtained damages and a consent decree in settlement, you surely wouldn't advise the employer that it was safe to ignore the possibility that the ADA might apply, would you? And if this is not your area of practice, knowing what I included in that last response, would you not refer that client to an attorney who is an expert in the ADA so that the employer knows the potential risk in firing the employee? I would make that referral in this case. I'm a tax lawyer, not an ADA specialist. I have, however, studied the ADA a bit and know enough to know that this situation has risk for the employer that ought to be discussed with an employment law attorney. Likewise, there is at least enough here to suggest the poster might have a good claim that he or she should consult an employment law attorney who litigates ADA claims for advice. Would you not agree, given that the EEOC felt confident enough about it in another case to take on the case itself and sue the employer?

  • 12-20-2010 7:38 PM In reply to

    • Cica
      Consumer
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    Re: Can my employer fire me for being on methadone treatment?

    • Locked

    Has an indicia of dependence been established to where if you weren't on this drug it would be considered substantially limiting a major life activity?  Has an alternative procedure ever been suggested?

  • 12-21-2010 3:52 PM In reply to

    Re: You may have a good ADA claim if you are fired.

    • Locked

    Thank you Taxagent. I appreciate your advice. You seem to know what you are talking about which certainly helps when you are giving someone information about the law.

    I didn't expect people to agree with or understand my problem or my treatment - I know that most people have a lot of misconceptions about methadone treatment and don't understand what it is or how it works - but I did expect people to give me accurate information and not comment at all if they don't know what they are talking about.

    I appreciate your help and your intelligent and sensible comments and not letting emotions and prejudice speak for you.

  • 12-21-2010 4:16 PM In reply to

    Re: IF it falls under the ADA

    • Locked

    Absolutely - run it past the EEOC. But one simply cannot assume that any particular condition, other than AIDS, will absolutely fall under this umbrella.

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