Help Unwanted: Is Addiction Ruining Your Job Hunt?

Job Hunt
May 11, 2016 at 3:13 am

Is Addiction Ruining Your Job Hunt?

Addiction is known to with it a lot of stigma which remains attached for long even after recovery. It becomes worse when you are in job hunt. When you have history of addiction, potential employers could keep your resume in the cabinet even so much reading it. Is that fair? And how can you increase your chances of getting employed?


According to the American With Disability Act (ADA), turning a potential employee way due to addiction is discrimination. And as it turns out, federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in multiple areas of life against qualified “individuals with disabilities”. 

As per these laws, an individual with a “disability” is some who has a current “physical or mental impairment” that “substantially limits” one or more of that person’s “major life activities” including but not limited to taking care of one’s self or working.

For a drug addiction to be considered a disability under the ADA, it must pose a substantial limitation on one or more major life activities. Therefore, those addicted to drugs, have a history of addiction, or those who are regarded as addicts are theoretically protected. However those who are currently using illegal drugs are not protected.

It is important to note that despite the current hiring laws, job hunters with history of drug abuse still face discrimination during recruitment exercises. In such a case:

In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity

Commission (EEOC) won a case1 against The United

Insurance Company of America – a company that refused to hire Mr. Craig Burns because his pre-employment drug screen tested positive for methadone. Burns had already received a job offer, but the offer was contingent on his passing a drug test. Even though he had informed the company that he had legally been prescribed the methadone, the United Insurance withdrew its employment offer over 40 singles cruise.

Online, you remain guilty even after being proven innocent

Imagine of a case whereby you are arrested, it is all over the news, you are taken to court, prosecutor drops charges and the slate is wiped clean but the original arrest article is still online. Now when someone search your name, the arrest one of the top Google results even when you were not guilty.

You can imagine the trouble this causes you when the articles takedown: difficulty getting a job, a promotion, or even a date. It seems unfair that even though the court removed all the traces of arrest from your record, there is no corresponding requirement that all news outlets do the same. What’s the importance of clearing one’s name when anyone with internet access can still rekindle the unlawful arrest? Remember internet never forgets. Even if the judicial system drops the charges, the court of public opinion has condemned that person for life.

In the battle of news outlets and your reputation, the law is on the side of the outlets as they have a First Amendment right to report true information and are under no legal obligation to “unpublish” content even when significant updates have occurred

Knowledge is power

Now compare your job hunt having had an addiction with the above scenario of unlawful arrest and the news publication. Your reputation will always haunt you in the job market. However, the bottom line remains that discriminating against anybody for having been a drug addict is illegal, so long as that person is undergoing treatment – or has completed treatment – and is no longer using drugs. If you are recovering from drug abuse and you would like to return to the job market, know your rights.

According to data2 from the EEOC, potential employers cannot legally ask questions like:

  1. Have you ever been addicted to drugs?
  2. What medications are you currently taking?
  3. How much alcohol do you take?
  4. How often did you use illegal drugs in the past?
  5. Have you ever been treated for a drug addiction?
  6. Have you ever taken (name of a legal drug)?

You can still get more information and facts about hiring and employment from a

SAMHSA document3 titled, “Are You in Recovery From Alcohol or Drug Problems? Know Your Rights”. This document gives details about your on-the-job rights and details how potential employers are prohibited from using your disability in a discriminatory manner – so long as you are qualified for the job.

Although you are likely to encounter numerous hurdles or setbacks on your job hunt, never give up. You should not despair; you have out rightly worked hard for your recovery. All the best as you embark on your job hunt.