Can an Employee Be Fired for Being on Suboxone?

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No. People in recovery from opioid use disorder have legal protection from being discriminated against in the workplace.

In most cases, your job is protected, and your employer can’t fire you for using your medication as directed if you have a legal and valid prescription.

A few exceptions exist, and it’s important to understand what they are. For example, there may be a few exceptions to the kind of work that can be done. Suboxone does pose the risk of sedation and therefore it may limit someone’s ability to perform certain jobs that involve driving or operating machinery. However, most employers can and must provide alternative accommodations for you in these situations instead of firing you.

If you are facing descrimination from an employer for being on Suboxone for OUD recovery, reach out to your doctor to provide documentation that you are taking this substance legally. You can also reach out to legal aid to help understand your rights and ensure they are upheld. 

Will Suboxone Show Up on a Drug Test?

Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), is not part of the standard drug screening, so it should not appear on a standard test. For Suboxone to appear on a urine drug screen, someone would have to order “buprenorphine” in addition to the standard drug test.

You can prevent this problem. Bring your prescription to the test and tell your screener that you’re using your medication as directed. With this proof, your test will still be marked negative. 

How Will the ADA Protect Me?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes language that protects people in active recovery. Your opioid use disorder (OUD) is considered a medical condition under the ADA, and your employer must make reasonable accommodations to help you work while dealing with that medical condition as they would for any other disability or medical condition.

The ADA only applies to companies with at least 15 employees, so if you work for a small company, you're not protected.[1] But if you work for a larger company, you can't get fired for using your medication per your doctor's orders.

The ADA also prevents your employer from singling you out for drug testing. And any future employer can't ask about your legal prescription drug use before hiring you.[2]

What Other Laws Address Legal Protections for Patients with OUD?

The ADA provides the most robust protections against discrimination for your opioid use disorder. However, these additional laws include also provide certain protections for patients: [2]

  • The Civil Rights Act: This legislation ensures employers can't single out a particular race or ethnic group for drug testing. 
  • Family and Medical Leave Act: This legislation applies to public agencies and companies with more than 50 workers. It protects your right to unpaid time away from work to deal with your addiction.
  • National Labor Relations Act: If your company participates in a union, this law ensures that you have a voice in drug-free rules and policies. 

How Bicycle Can Help

If you are concerned about your employer checking for Suboxone and using the test results against you, Bicycle Health providers will provide an official letter explaining you have a prescription for buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) without breaking patient confidentiality. This helps reinforce the legal protections you have from employment discrimination.

Sources

  1. ADA Protects Workers in Treatment and Recovery for Opioid Use. Society for Human Resources Management. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/ada-protects-workers-in-treatment-and-recovery-for-opioid-use.aspx. April 2022. Accessed August 2022. 
  2. Federal Laws and Regulations. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/employer-resources/federal-laws. July 2022. Accessed August 2022.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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