What constitutes a violation of discrimination laws in the workplace?

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What constitutes a violation of discrimination laws in the workplace?

I work for a residential drug/alcohol rehab. We want to put a policy in place that states we will consider hiring graduates of the program, but after a minimum of 1 year fromtheir graduation. It is a 1-year alcohol/drug residential rehab program. I’m not sure if that violates any discrimination laws. In other words, would it be illegal to not hire former patients until they have been out of program for minimum of 1 year?

Asked on July 20, 2011 Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Workplace discrimination laws prohibit discrimination against the disabled on account of their disabilties. Since drug addiction may be considered a disability, it may be that addicts are covered by anti-discrimination law. However, the obligation is to make "reasoanble accomodation" for them--that is, you are allowed to take legitimate job needs into account and craft a policy that "reasonably" accomodates the disabled, or lets them work so long as it is not too expensive, too disruptive, or too risky to the employer. Requiring a graduate of a rehabilitation program to have one year under their belt post-graduation seems as if it would be a reaonsable accomodation, since that gives them a chance to work after they've been able to demonstrate an ability to function outside the program. For a more definitive answer, consult with an employment attorney who can evaluate your clients, your program, your needs, etc. in detail; however, at first blush, from what you write, this seems as if it would be a reasonable accomodation (even if drug addiction is a disability) and therefore nondiscriminatory.


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