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An important part of recovery is finding meaningful work, but some LGBT people worry it will be too difficult to find a job. Before setting out on a job search, it’s a good idea to know the laws that protect people with a history of addiction.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Protections
Several civil rights laws protect people who are living in recovery or receiving treatment for addiction according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These laws protect a person’s right to find a job and qualify for certain housing benefits.
In general it is illegal to discriminate against someone just because he or she has struggled with addiction or is being treated for the disease. Discrimination includes actions that treat a person differently just on the basis of a past disability such as addiction. For a person’s current or past addiction to be considered a disability, the person must be able to show the addiction substantially limits or limited major life activities. In addition a person who is currently using illegal drugs or whose alcohol or drug use harms the safety or health of others is not protected.
Several federal laws protect people in the LGBT community with a history of addiction as they begin a job hunt. The most significant protections for people with a history of addiction are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The ADA applies to all state and local employers and to private employers with 15 or more employees. The RA applies to all Federal employers and companies that receive Federal aid, grants or contracts. In addition some states have additional protections that go beyond the ADA according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
The ADA and RA ensure that qualified people may not be refused employment or be fired due to receiving addiction treatment currently or in the past. Employees may also receive reasonable accommodations such as shifted work hours in order to attend treatment sessions.
Interview Questions and Addiction History
It is illegal for an employer to ask an applicant questions about a disability. It also is illegal for an employer to ask questions about an addiction to drugs or alcohol or ask if a person is in addiction treatment. On the other hand it is legal for an employer to ask if an applicant is using drugs illegally, if he or she drinks alcohol and if the applicant can perform the duties of the job.
Once hired it is legal for an employer to require a medical exam including drug and alcohol testing as long as all employees are required to have the same exam. An LGBT employee may be fired on the basis of the exam. It also is legal to conduct a drug test before employment and refuse to hire a person if the test comes back positive for illegal drugs.
It’s important to know that anti-discrimination laws help a person overcome limitations set by other laws. For example legal restrictions due to past or current substance use, including convictions for substance use offences, may be overcome through the ADA or the RA.
Job Training and Addiction History
A person with a history of addiction or in current addiction treatment is still eligible for job training through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The WIA offers financial assistance for job training and placement through the One-Stop Career Center system.
Protecting Legal Rights
A person who feels discriminated against due to a past addiction or current addiction may seek help in two ways:
- File a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights or a similar office of the federal agency. The complaint may need to be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act or even sooner. A lawyer is not needed to file a complaint.
- File a lawsuit in federal or state court in addition or instead of filing a complaint. A lawsuit must be filed within one to three years depending on local rules. If you file an employment discrimination claim under the ADA, it must be filed first with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). A lawsuit may not be filed instead of filing with the EEOC.
In addition legal protections for certain minority groups, including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, vary across the country. In some states and communities, an LGBT individual may have trouble finding a job or qualifying for housing or social services if their sexual orientation is disclosed notes SAMHSA. A responsible treatment center will offer LGBT patients complete confidentiality as well as information about local regulations in the community and the legal impact of disclosing sexual orientation.
Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?
Brain researchers are discovering more about the disease of addiction everyday. Learning ways to manage the disease over a lifetime is crucial. There are many techniques proven to make a difference, and the final element is making the strategies personal.
If you or a loved one in the LGBT community needs help finding addiction treatment, call our admissions coordinators at our toll-free helpline today. We answer questions seven days a week, 24 hours a day to give family members, friends and individuals the necessary information to get well. Reach out today, and learn ways to treat addiction and addictive behaviors.