SoftPro, a Delaware software company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, agreed to pay a former IT employee, Matthew Elliott, $80,000 after Elliott sued the company for firing him for having a perceived disability. Elliott is in recovery from opiate addiction and participated in physician-supervised medication-assisted treatment (MAT) since 2009. When Elliott voluntarily decided to enter inpatient treatment to eliminate the need for MAT in February of 2017, SoftPro fired him. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) represented Elliott, and was also successful in requiring that SoftPro “revise, implement and distribute personnel policies to state that the company does not exclude employees based on their participation in a medication-assisted treatment program,” according to a statement by the commission.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
MAT for opiate addiction is a corrective, not curative, way to relieve opiate cravings for individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD). The Food and Drug Administration approves three medications—methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine—as MAT options for opiate use. These medications also prevent withdrawal symptoms, and although methadone and buprenorphine are opiates, they do not produce the same euphoric sensations as prescription pain killers or heroin. These treatments are, however, quite controversial in drug treatment and recovery circles. Despite the benefits of MAT, many assert that using these treatments are simply replacing one addiction with another. While most drug treatment programs in the United States promote abstinence-based recovery, a growing number of treatment facilities are embracing MAT programs, which are said to improve the social functioning and increase treatment retention for those with OUD.
Substance Use and Disabilities Protection
The Americans with Disabilities Act from 1990 offers protections for those with a history of substance use disorder (SUD), although not for current drug users. For example, if an applicant or employee tests positive for an illegal drug, that person cannot immediately enter a drug rehabilitation and claim the same protections as someone who had an extended period without drugs, or voluntarily enters drug treatment. This is what made Elliott’s case so complicated. As a participant in a MAT program, Elliott is rightfully not considered a current user, although his being fired by SoftPro might lead some to believe he was. But dropping a MAT program without supervision is not recommended and can cause opiate withdrawal symptoms. As a person with a history of substance use, Elliott was within his rights to enter treatment to carefully and safely eliminate his need for MAT and start a new chapter in his recovery. If MAT is currently part of your recovery and you would like to transition into abstinence-based recovery, there is help. At facilities around the country, Amatus Recovery Centers offer a full continuum of care, from detox to inpatient or partial hospitalization programs to long-term after care.