A reader writes:
I have been taking Suboxone for 2 months now and it has changed my life! I finally feel a freedom I haven’t felt in over 30 years! I am a nurse and am able to work around and administer narcotics with absolutely no thoughts, urges, or cravings…a miracle for me. BUT, the hospital I work for has just informed me I cannot be taking suboxone while employed there.
I am just in shock. Is there any recourse for me? Are there any laws protecting my disease/disability medical management?
I feel it’s like being told I can’t take my insulin if I were diabetic.
I have been watching to see what position the various Licensing Boards take on suboxone. I did not expect to hear of such a silly demand by an employer– particularly an employer that supposedly has an interest in keeping people healthy.
If you read some of the forums out there you will come across this statement: “We need our doctors and nurses to be 100% on their toes– would you want your surgeon to be on suboxone?” My answer, of course, is YES– particularly if he/she has any history of opiate dependence. I want his/her mind 100% on my surgery… not on the last meeting they went to, not on the meeting that they need at the end of the day, and not on the narcotic prescription that they will write after the surgery If they are taking suboxone, then I know that they are essentially ‘normal’– they are not having cravings, they are not sedated, they are not ‘high’– they are the person that they would be, if they were able to dissect out their opiate addiction.
For our nice nurse, I wish that you could go and hire the best employee-rights attorney in the country, and sue the hospital for wrongful termination. In fact, as I think about it, I wonder if they can even make such demands. Can a hospital threaten to fire a patient for taking antidepressants? If not, how can they threaten to fire you for taking suboxone? They would have to claim that it somehow impairs you from your job– and how could they do that? As anyone taking suboxone knows, once you are used to the medication there is no significant effect from taking it.
I actually DO have a great attorney for this type of work. The problem is that lawsuits cost money. I will send him an e-mail and see if he has come across this issue before. In the meantime, don’t do anything drastic. You may want to consider drafting a letter that threatens to go the the EEOC over the issue. They cannot fire a person for having a protected disability, including addiction (they can fire a person for behavior, or even risk of behavior, related to the addiction– but if the addiction is only a ‘past’ issue they can’t hold it against you).
A reader writes: