The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today sued a Raleigh insurance office for not hiring a recovering drug addict who tested positive for methadone in his system.
The federal anti-discrimination agency's Charlotte office, which filed the case, said that United Insurance Company of America violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by rescinding a job offer to Craig Burns, a Raleigh resident, after he failed his drug test.
According to the suit, Burns applied for an opening as an insurance agent in December 2009 and was hired conditionally the next month, pending the outcome of the drug test.
Burns, 30, had methadone in his system because he is a recovering drug addict who has been enrolled in a supervised treatment program since at least 2004, the suit says.
"We have to set aside our personal feelings and do what the law dictates," said Lynette Barnes, the EEOC's regional attorney in Charlotte. "That's why he's covered by the ADA. He has this impairment that requires him to take the methadone."
Barnes said that "recovering addictions" are protected by the ADA as disabilities. The suit seeks back pay and lost income, as well as damages.
EEOC rarely sues over discrimination against recovering addicts. Earlier this year, however, the agency won an $85,000 settlement in a similar case in Pennsylvania after a factory rescinded a job offer to production laborer whose drug test came back positive for methadone.
Burns had been delivering pizzas for about five years when he applied for the job with United Insurance. After the insurer withdrew its offer, Burns went back to delivering pizza, Barnes said. He has a wife and a child.
The suit says that Burns "has a record of a disability based on a seven-year drug addiction prior to entering the drug treatment program in 2004."
Furthermore, the suit says, "When Burns was using drugs, he would get chills, intense cravings for the drugs, nausea and he had difficult concentrating. Burns' drug use also affected his central nervous system."
Methadone is a powerful pain reliever commonly used in drug detox programs to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates.