Search for Addiction Treatment Centers Near You Forums Substance Abuse Discrimination in the Workplace-ADVICE PLS!

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    Good Evening,
    I would like to ask opinion/advice and/or hear from anyone who has ever expirienced discrimination in the work place because of your PREVIOUS drug addiction. I say PREVIOUS because the American’s with Disabilities Act only covers those individuals who are not using currently but have a past documented history (ie. detox center/disability because of your previous addiction).
    My long story, made short, is that I have been working for a PR firm in DC for 9 months with great reviews. They provided Short Term and Long Term Disability for all of their employees. I figured I wouldn’t be accepted but disclosed the fact that I was in a detox 5 years ago on a application for this insurance. This application was then placed in a sealed folder so that it couldn’t be viewed by anyone. I was denied STD/LTD; I told my COO (who is the appropriate person) that I was denied for “past hospitalization” and that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
    DC law states that if they provide this benefit to all employees and one is not accepted, they must comp. or change carriers to include everyone. They decided to change carriers. (I was accepted 1 week before I was let go).
    on August 20th my boss, the CEO, asked for my HR file and returned to his office. 2 minutes later he asked that I meet with him for a moment. He proceeded to show me the company policy on drug abuse (with the door wide open). He had highlighted certain sections of the policy stating that I could be let go or asked to go to a facility if I wanted. I got up and shut the door and told him that it was inappropriate to have left it open. He got visably nervous (nevous laugh, hand shaking a bit). I sat down and asked what he meant by this… “where are you coming from because I don’t understand”.
    His answer? “Well, you drink a lot of Red Bull and someone mentioned that you looked tired a few weeks ago”. I told him that was a bit rediculous and that I didn’t see the connection with a drug addiction and red bull. He began to back track and then stopped the conversation, stating “I just wanted to put it out there”. Once I got the file back I realized that the application was in there and that the envelope had been opened previously.
    Cut to 2 weeks later, I was let go. He said that I wasn’t spendng enough time at work (I had taken 2 pre-approved vacation days for my grandmother’s funeral). I told him that it didn’t seem right to me and he reminded me that DC is a “work at will” and that I could be let go at anytime for any reason. He is right about that.

    SOOOO…. Am I being sensetive? Am I making this all about ME when it could just be that he thought I was using because of the tired, red bull reason he gave? I feel burned. He asked that I sign a severance package right then and there. It stated that I couldn’t sue for any reason at all, including this one… I believe. A lawyer said I could get out of the contract (it said that I was given time to let a lawyer view it and they would not allow me to do so… stating that I only had 5 minutes). The Disability thing could be filed but it will take a lot of money and time against a company that has A LOT of both…

    I know this was a long post! I appreciate any help that you can give… Expirience strength or hope, huh? I guess we all just need to be careful where and when we let our disability be known… how sad that we still have the stigma of junkies in a dark alley, incompetent of holding a “real job”… I can always be a stripper I guess! lol


    I don’t have any experience with this, but I wanted to say Welcome to 12 Step National Meetings to you. And bump your post up so maybe someone with experience will read it.


    Since drug testing has become common in the workplace, you would think that they would be more educated about the affects of addiction and also about recovery.

    I don’t know the labour laws where you are and think getting a lawyer might be a good idea, even though you may have signed the agreement, you were coerced into doing it without time to get legal advice.

    What I have learned through many years of experience working, is that every workplace has their own corporate idiot who can make life difficult for everyone. It sounds like you have found yours.

    Good luck on this, it doesn’t seem right.



    I would say …ask a lawyer

    and when I asked my lawyer about going after an employer, he told me…
    Stop wasting your time trying to straighten them out and go get a job.

    As far as getting canned and the person who said to the boss…yah know she drinks lots of redbull… that would be defamation of caractor and if you were to win anything…it would only be lost wages and a lawyer bill will take care of that.
    As for them opening a sealed envelope… at the most, they would get a slap on the hand and told not to do it again.

    To me it sure sounds like you have a case but take a look at this (found on a google search…

    Why Commencing A Defamation Action Is Not Aways A Good Idea

    While people who are targeted by lies may well be angry enough to file a lawsuit, there are some very good reasons why actions for defamation may not be a good idea.

    The publicity that results from a defamation lawsuit can create a greater audience for the false statements than they previously enjoyed. For example, if a newspaper or news show picks up the story of the lawsuit, false accusations that were previously known to only a small number of people may suddenly become known to the entire community, nation, or even to the world. As the media is much more apt to cover a lawsuit than to cover its ultimate resolution, the net effect may be that large numbers of people hear the false allegations, but never learn how the litigation was resolved.

    Another big issue is that defamation cases tend to be difficult to win, and damage awards tend to be small. As a result, it is unusual for attorneys to be willing to take defamation cases on a contingent fee basis, and the fees expended in litigating even a successful defamation action can exceed the total recovery.

    Another significant concern is that, even where the statements made by the defendant are entirely false, it may not be possible for a plaintiff to prove all of the elements of defamation. Most people will respond to news that a plaintiff lost a defamation lawsuit by concluding that the allegations were true.

    In other words, the plaintiff in a defamation action may be required to expend a considerable amount of money to bring the action, may experience significant negative publicity which repeats the false accusations, and if unsuccessful in the litigation may cement into the public consciousness the belief that the defamatory accusations were true. While many plaintiffs will be able to successfully prosecute defamation actions, the possible downside should be considered when deciding whether or not such litigation should be attempted.


    I think Best said it well, the best. I don’t think you’ll get anywhere except a lot of tears and frustration and money spent?

    Do I personally believe they were wrong? You bet.


    I think you have every right to be upset and even want to persue it, as I would if I were in your position but not before I asked myself if it would be worth it (stress, aggravation, etc) I think sometimes we have to ask ourselves if the fight has a payoff worth more than our own peace of mind or serenity.


    Thank you so much for the reassurance! I felt like taking on the world and being the “advocate for the cause” but knew I wouldn’t get too far. I did speak to several lawyers, all who were very interested in persuing the case. I have a proven track record since I have voluntarily seen a doctor for the last two years who not only Drug tested every month but gives me nalaxone (opiate blocker). I also have a documented (by doctors and my employer knew from the start) hearing loss from excessive opiate abuse (employer didn’t know what caused the loss though!). So, it gives a civil rights lawyer enough to charge against them under the ADA…
    I did feel as though each lawyer quickly felt like they could use my situation to make a name for them. Each telling me, “we can do this but it will take a lot of time and a lot of your personal money but we MAY be able to get that all back 3 or 4 fold. I think your story should be told, don’t you?”… MAY HAVE A POSITIVE OUTCOME? hummm…
    Thank you Best, I didn’t think of it that way. A)the person who was pushing the red bull and tired situation can be held liable; I know who this person is as well. B) If this story were picked up by a news source (and I am sure it will since the company is a huge Public Relations Firm for some of America’s TOP BRANDS) my name would be run through the dirt before it would be cleared, only causing more people to know every detail of my horrible addiction story (and it can be traced via the court system).
    I think I will take my sanity and this expirience and move on to a company that is a bit more understanding. I certainly will never disclose my addiction, ever again in any form, to a company that I work with. You never know who the person reading it or hearing about it can do to get you fired… that was a no-no on my part (as my sponsor said, “lesson learned, now move on”).
    If the only thing we all take away is the knowledge that the view on addiction has not changed too much and that we need to be careful when and where we decide to tell people about that part of our life, we will have at least taken something away. That and the Severance Package… lol
    I will be filing a complaint with the EOCC (employment and labor board) regarding the way I was confronted and let them handle it from there. I am sure they will never skip a beat without me but it would be nice for that SOB to have to at least go through training with the state… (and to top it all… I was their HR Director…lol).
    Thank you again and I appreciate all of the advice and support that you all have given me. I am not insane afterall… thank god!


    2nd Life, I went through something similar a few years ago. I started to write all the circumstances here, but realized that was taking too long. Fast forward: For 2 years I had been working in a mental health center as a therapist. After about 9 months of abuse from a new boss that didn’t like any of us, I was put on a medical leave that fell under the federal family medical leave act (able to take unpaid medical leave for up to 3 months) for depression and a severe eating disorder. The company may have suspected the eating disorder, because of my eating habits, but I was not grossly underweight. My therapist sent a letter stating my leave was for depression. My depression, anxiety and eating disorder had reached severe status specifically because of that boss who talked to me like a dog on a regular basis. They did approve my medical leave. However, the day I was to return to work, after driving half an hour to get there, they told me to return to the cooperate office and see the executive director. I was immediately fired, told that I was incompetent and not performing my duties correctly. Keep in mind that over a 15 year period I had never received a negative evaluation from any employer until I started clashing with that one boss just 6 months before. She was mad at us outpatient staff and treated us like step-children because our office was moved into hers and she had to supervise us all. And I did receive only one negative evaluation. Even during that period of time, outside auditors and evaluators were looking at my charts and notating that I had excellent documentation and all my charts were up to date on required documents. I knew that I had been wrongfully terminated. I filed for unemployment, submitted my proof (thankfully I had saved harrassing memos from my boss and many past excellent performance reviews). That along with the fact that I was terminated on the very day I returned from medical leave, I was immediately granted my benefits. Of course I wanted to sue for harrassment, discrimination and whatever else I could sue for, but I knew deep down I did not have it in me to endure that AND that other potential employers would probably hear about it and that would affect my ability to find/keep work.

    All in all, I got through it okay. Being fired was probably a gift, because I was afraid to quit without having another job lined up. I got to take 6 months to be with my son and not have to worry about money. Looking for the blessings that came with leaving that job, helped a lot. Also, instead of retaliating, I practiced spiritual principles in dealing with those people, never once saying anything I needed to make amends for. My self-respect grew and I’m a better person for it.


    I don’t have experience with this because I have never disclosed anything at my jobs, about my problem with addiction. I am really sorry that this happened to you and it’s just plain sad. I am so happy when I hear celebrities speaking out publicly about their struggles with addiction and depression. I think it’s one of the few ways to show the public that we can live good lives and be excellent employees.


    Right on, Anna!

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