October 2021: Recovery in the Workplace


Jobs & Hope West Virginia Transition Agents often speak to employers about hiring individuals in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and becoming a second chance or “recovery friendly” employer. The role of a Transition Agent includes helping to decrease stigma and removing barriers, especially in the workplace. Often, the topic of SUD evokes employer misconceptions that need to be dispelled, such as poor behavior, theft, and missing work. While stigma can cause these myths, they can be combated by Transition Agents who educate employers on the truth about potential employees in recovery from SUD.


First, recovery does happen. According to a 2018 article on drugfree.org, there are over 20 million individuals (roughly ten percent of the population) who report being in recovery from SUD. New paths to recovery continue to be discovered for individuals who are suffering. Treatment works and is more readily available with increased options in West Virginia. As efforts expand, more people can receive the treatment they need and have the chance to enjoy life in recovery. 


Second, people change. Individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorder have adopted a new set of principles in their life that center around integrity, honesty, and self-sufficiency. The workplace will allow them to grow and be productive members of society, and if given the chance they may become the best employees in the workplace. Part of recovery is adding to the stream of life that many missed out on for years during active use. These individuals are eager to prove themselves worthy and realize they also have more to lose if they fail.


Finally, experience is an asset. Many who are in recovery have been through the proverbial ringer. They have faced and overcome obstacles - against all odds. Some of the most valuable assets in a productive employee are resiliency, the ability to adapt, being resourceful, and problem solving. These are all qualities of someone who has gone through years of addiction and struggle and has come out on the other side with lessons learned. These individuals can add perspective to any workplace.


There are resources available to employers who want to be part of the solution. Those interested in how they can update their workplace policy to be more recovery friendly can go here to learn more about building a drug responsible workplace and gain access to a Substance Misuse Toolkit that provides education on how to prevent and respond to substance use in the workplace. There are also financial incentives available to employers who are willing to take a chance on individuals seeking a second chance. The federal bond that is available at no cost to employers was recently doubled from $5,000 to $10,000. This can be used for full or part-time employees, including those hired through a temp agency. That form and additional information can be found at: https://workforcewv.org/federal-bonding-program. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal tax credit program that offers significant incentives for employers who hire and retain individuals from specific target groups that have previously experienced difficulty in securing employment.  That information can be accessed at https://workforcewv.org/employers/step-3-explore-tax-credits

Contact Information

Deborah Harris, Jobs & Hope Lead Transition Agent- drharris@k12.wv.us