I received a comment in reply to a post about a person who’s parole officer was demanding that he stop taking Suboxone.
The comment/question: What about the hippa act?…how did your employer find out about your past addiction,current use of suboxone?
In this case the parole officer was well aware of the history of addiction, as the criminal charges were related to the patient’s use of opiates. HIPPA does not play a role in that case– after a conviction a person has to provide whatever information the court demands, and anything related to addiction is fair game. From the court’s perspective a person does not have a right to privacy in regard to illegal activity, which would include the illegal use of legal medications.
Regarding employers, at least in the US employers are allowed to perform drug testing, and in some cases to ask about history of addictive disorders. I am most familiar with the medical field where questions about prior addiction are the norm. Addiction is a ‘protected disability’ according the the ADA, but the protection is narrow– an employer can fire or refuse to hire a person for the behavior related to the addiction– not for ‘having’ addiction, but for breaking the law, working while intoxicated, etc. The common question on applications for medical positions is ‘do you have an addictive disorder that has the potential to affect your ability to care for patients?’ President Bill Clinton would struggle with that question– if he didn’t know what ‘is’ is, he would never figure this one out! What I mean is that a person who is actively addicted is going to be in denial and think that he/she is fine. On the other hand, a person in good recovery is going to know that any addictive disorder will ALWAYS have the ‘potential’ to affect performance.
An employer can ‘discriminate’ against a person with a history of addiction IF having addiction is relevant to the nature of the job. Someone hiring anesthesiologists can object to hiring an opiate addict, because the job requires the handling of potent narcotics. A bar owner can refuse to hire an alcoholic for the same reason.
A word about drug testing– some drug tests will show buprenorphine as positive for opiates, and some will come up negative. It depends on the brand of the test.