What are my legal rights to confidential drug and/or alcohol treatment?
People who have completed drug and/or alcohol treatment may be concerned about whether their past problems with substance abuse will forever haunt them. However, there are a number of federal and state laws that can help ensure that you are treated fairly and not denied certain services because of your history with substance abuse or treatment for substance abuse.
Federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 prevent employers in the public and private sectors from discrimination on the basis of past substance abuse treatment, as do some state anti-discrimination laws.
Plus, if you need substance abuse treatment that requires you to take a leave of absence from work, you may be able to do so pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which permits up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical purposes. So long as your employer is subject to the FMLA, and you are otherwise eligible to take FMLA leave, your employer cannot discriminate against you for requesting medical leave in order to undergo substance abuse treatment. Your employer also has a duty to accommodate any ongoing treatment that you might need that requires you to be absent from work or alter your work schedule, if it would not cause undue harm to do so.
Furthermore, any information about the fact that you have undergone substance abuse treatment is completely confidential. If your employer needs information about your treatment for the purposes of FMLA or medical insurance, your employer cannot disclose any of this information without your consent. Also, if employment-related drug testing reveals legally prescribed medications in your system, such as methadone, your employer cannot disclose this information, or punish you for it.
Likewise, if you are interviewing for a job, your prospective employer cannot even ask you about any substance abuse treatment that you might have undergone in the past. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants who have a history of substance abuse or treatment for substance abuse. Similarly, government job placement or training centers, such as unemployment offices, cannot discriminate against you due to your history of substance abuse or treatment.
You are also entitled to fair treatment in terms of housing under the Fair Housing Act, a federal anti-discrimination law. A landlord, seller, realtor, or public housing agency cannot prevent you from renting or purchasing a home because you have a history of substance abuse or treatment. The only exception is that you may not be permitted to live in public housing if you have certain drug-related criminal convictions in your past.
Other government and public agencies are subject to anti-discrimination laws, as well. For instance, you cannot be denied public assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps, because you have a history of substance abuse or treatment. Public entities such as churches, hospitals, and schools also are prohibited from discriminating against you or denying you services due to your history of substance abuse or treatment.