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Author: Shernide Delva
As we all know by now, the amount of people who are suffering with drug addiction exceeds anything we have seen before. As a result, employers must learn how to handle employees who are struggling with drug addiction. According to NPR, people with addiction are more likely to be sick, absent, or use workers’ compensation benefits,. Therefore the question remains: Should employers have the right to fire an employee due to drug addiction, or should providing treatment always be a requirement?
A survey conducted in Indiana found that 80 percent of employers are impacted by prescription drug abuse and misuse. They also found that 64 percent of employers believed that prescription drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin were much more of a problem compared to illegal drugs.
Despite these statistics, only half of employers have a written policy on how to handle drug addiction in the workplace. Questions remain on how to handle employees who fall into addiction related problems. Three quarters of employers say drug abuse, specifically prescription drug abuse, is a justifiable reason for termination. Considering the emphasis in the past years on drug addiction being an illness and not a crime, employers question how to handle these cases. Furthermore, if an employee’s addiction interferes with their work obligations, should treatment still be offered or do employees have the right to terminate? Clearly, the laws are blurry on the manner.
The Steve Sarkisian Case: Was It Legal to Fire Him?
Addiction continues to be a complicated issue for employers to tackle. However, there are some established guideline. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required employers to offer job protection for those suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholism is considered to be a kind of disabilities. Still, the exact legalities are confusing. This is exemplified greatly in the case involving USC football coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian, who admits to suffering from alcoholism, believes strongly that he was wrongfully terminated due to his drinking.
According to Sarkisian, he states he was “kicked to the curb” last October when he sought in-patient treatment for alcoholism. According to the law, employers must follow federal and state discrimination guidelines. Alcoholism qualifies as a disability under the ADA guidelines. Those guidelines define a disabilities as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Therefore, Sarkisian should have been treated for his disability and not terminated.
However, while the ADA protects employees from being fired directly due to their alcoholism, it does not restrict termination due to alcoholism-related misconduct. Furthermore, constant lateness and intoxication on the job could deem a termination valid. Employers can also fire employees who do not meet up to the standards of the workplace as a result of their alcoholism.
Despite this clarification, Sarkisian believes he was terminated wrongfully. USC has responded to his allegations explaining that his termination was due to his behavior at a pep rally where he appeared drunk and used foul language with the audience. The former coach was allegedly too intoxicated to coach practice the next day. USC will cite these incidences to justify Sarkisian termination.
On the other hand, Sarkisian is suing for 30 million dollars because he believes USC violated ADA guidelines. In his defense, he stated that his employer should have made “reasonable accommodations” to meet guidelines. He believes that they were required to let him seek treatment. His lawsuit claims that USC violated ADA laws by firing him when he went to rehab.
Workplace addiction issues are increasingly common, whether it is alcohol-related to prescription drug addiction. Alcohol and drug problems among employees can be an expensive problem for business and industry. Such complications of drug addiction to employers include
- Lost productivity
- Absenteeism, injuries
- Low employee morale
- An increase in health care
- Legal liabilities
- Workers’ compensation costs.
If you suffer from any type of drug addiction, seek help before your behavior becomes unmanageable and jeopardizes your career. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
If you are looking to go to rehab you probably have many different concerns, especially when it comes to your privacy. You may not want anyone such as future employers or school to know that you have had a problem with drugs and alcohol. This is where your health care rights come into play and it is a question that is very commonly asked; does rehab go on your record?
The answer is, as a patient in a rehab, one of your major rights is to have your rehab health record kept as private and confidential.
Unless you have specifically provided written consent for release of your medical records to a third party, your rehab health record and information will be kept confidential. It is completely understandable that you want to feel safe when deciding to sign up for rehab and part of that safety is knowing that your health record will be kept private. There are exceptions to the rule though. For instance if a court orders the release of your records, then you will have to share that information but for the most part you will not have to worry about anyone getting a copy of your rehab records unless you say it is alright.
The laws behind whether or not rehab goes on your record
- In the early 1970’s, Congress recognized that the stigma associated with substance abuse and fear of prosecution deterred people from entering treatment. So they enacted legislation that gave patients a right to confidentiality. For the almost three decades since the Federal confidentiality regulations were issued, confidentiality has been a cornerstone practice for substance abuse treatment programs across the country and are what you probably know as HIPPAA laws or the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically such as rehabs. The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patient’s rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections.
- The federal Public Health Services Act includes comprehensive privacy rules that protect the confidentiality of rehab records. Established by Congress in part to encourage substance abusers to seek treatment, the regulations are some of the most protective confidentiality rules in federal law.
One the biggest laws that protects your rights as a rehabilitated addict is the American With Disabilities Act or ADA.
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.” 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. As a result, an employer does not violate the ADA by uniformly enforcing its rules prohibiting employees from illegally using drugs. However, “qualified individuals” under the ADA include those individuals:
- who have been successfully rehabilitated and who are no longer engaged in the illegal use of drugs
- who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs
- who are regarded, erroneously, as illegally using drugs.
An employer may make certain pre-employment, pre-offer inquiries regarding use of alcohol or the illegal use of drugs. An employer may ask whether an applicant drinks alcohol or whether he or she is currently using drugs illegally. However, an employer may not ask whether an applicant is a drug abuser or alcoholic, or inquire whether he or she has ever been in rehab.
If you or someone you love is looking for a drug rehab, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.