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Should You Disclose Prior Substance Abuse to a Potential Employer?


February 4, 2018

You have found the best job. You are so excited, and you cannot wait to tell your friends and family all about it. There is just one problem. Your prospective employer does not know about your history of substance abuse. Can you be honest and still keep your dream job?

Can Employers Ask About a History of Substance Abuse?

There is nothing more awkward than being put on the spot and asked questions about information that you did not choose to disclose to an employer. What are new employers allowed to ask you?

Actually, employers are not allowed to ask or assess you based on past substance abuse. If you talk about it, they cannot disclose any information about you to your colleagues or clients. All information that you disclose is confidential.

What Do You Need to Tell Prospective Employers?

FlexJobs states that “your decisions about what (if anything) to share, when, and how much should be objective.” While you may be tempted to talk about your past just to be upfront about it, weigh the pros and cons of disclosure, and decide whether to talk about it during the interview or after you are hired. In any case, you should be prepared to talk about gaps in your resume. Know how you will address these questions before you go into an interview.

If the information that you keep online discloses your past substance abuse, you may want to consider disclosing this to a new employer, since that person will likely look you up online.  It is better to take control of the information that gets out there rather than leaving it to your employer’s imagination.

Substance abuse

You Are Protected By Law 

Can a new employer look at your past and decide that you do not have a future with the company? You should be protected by law. According to Law Info, “federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 prevent employers in the public and private sectors from discrimination on the basis of past substance abuse treatment, as do some state anti-discrimination laws.”

If you need further rehab, your employer also needs to know that you are entitled to have up to 12 weeks of medical leave as well.

How to Talk With Your Employers About Past Substance Abuse 

If you have decided to talk with your employer about past substance abuse, know that some people may see the problems in hiring someone with a history of substance abuse, while others will see the great effort you put in to change your life. Stress that effort and your accomplishment, rather than the negatives.

Your employer may wonder how your past will affect your future with the company. If you are undergoing ongoing treatment, you are allowed to ask for accommodations to flex your work schedule or to be absent from work for a period of time. Since employers work well with certainty, talk with them well in advance about any proposed absences or adjustments. Reassure your employer that you are committed to the job, and stress the knowledge that you have gained from this life experience.

At Advanced Recovery Systems, we are committed to working with you in the long term to achieve success in your recovery from substance abuse. Do you want to know how we can work with you to help you attain your goals? Contact us today!

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