The federal agency charged with keeping discrimination out of the workplace has good news for methadone patients in medication-assisted treatment. In a lawsuit filed last summer by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against United Insurance, a Chicago-based company, the federal government is fighting for the rights of people in methadone treatment for opioid dependence. According to the complaint, United Insurance offered a position as an agent to Craig Burns, who has been in methadone treatment since 2004. The job offer was contingent upon his passing a drug test; Mr. Burns’ test indicated that he had methadone in his system.
Mr. Burns’ treatment provider gave him a letter for the company saying that he was in treatment and taking a legally prescribed medication. When the company got that information, it withdrew the job offer, according to the EEOC, which charges that United Insurance violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Past Drug Addiction is a Protected Disability Under the ADA
The EEOC sued United Insurance in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “It is unfortunate that many employers still deny the opportunity for work to people who are ready and able simply because of inaccurate perceptions of disabilities,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, in a press statement in August. “Employers’ decisions are often based on irrational fears or stereotypes about individuals with a record of past substance abuse. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of people victimized by such prejudices.”