MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Finding a decent job can be tough for people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction can cause people to go long stints without working, and that does not look good on a resume. So a company outside Philadelphia launched a new hiring website where employers post jobs just for people in recovery. From member station WHYY, Nina Feldman has this report.
NINA FELDMAN, BYLINE: When Tim Tulvey decided to quit drinking, it wasn't easy. He spent a month in rehab, then relapsed and was arrested for assault after he blacked out and hit his wife with a glass. Through all of that, his boss kept him on as a warehouse manager. But keeping regular hours on probation can be tricky. As a condition of his release, Tulvey had to carry a breathalyzer, which he says often didn't work right.
TIM TULVEY: If the breathalyzer did not go off and give them a register, then I had to go back. And I had to either prove that I blew in this thing and it didn't work, or they could rearrest me.
FELDMAN: Pretty soon, Tulvey's boss said all the trips to see his bail officer were eating up too much of the work day, and he let him go. So Tulvey did what he usually did when he was looking for work. He threw his resume up on indeed.com. He had decades of management experience for landscaping and pest control companies. In the past, when he'd posted his resume on sites like Indeed, he always had a lot of luck.
TULVEY: Oh, yeah. I was getting hits left and right. I mean, there was companies reaching out to me a lot.
FELDMAN: But this time was different. He didn't get any responses. He figured potential employers must be doing background checks, so he stopped applying for a lot of the jobs he thought he'd be qualified for.
TULVEY: And, right now, I'm steering away from anything that I think might be iffy as far as, you know, having an assault on your record. I mean, I'm not that person, but the word assault says it all.
FELDMAN: Eventually, Tulvey got a job with the recovery house, where he lives. They knew about his past and also trusted that he was a good guy. The idea that, with a little context, employers will give someone a chance is the foundation for Retrofit Careers, a new job site for people in recovery. Doug Kiker is one of its founders and has been sober for 13 years. He always made an effort to hire people in recovery for his construction business, and he knew there were other employers out there like him. So he figured there should be a formal way to connect people in recovery with workplaces that will understand their situation.
DOUG KIKER: So that, even if the question's asked, the answer is, well, this is when I was rehabbing. This is when I was on the street. This is why I got fired from my last job. But, today, it's not like that. Today, I'm sober. I have six months. I have a year. I have 90 days.
FELDMAN: Of the roughly 22 million adults in the United States in recovery, 9 percent are unemployed, more than twice the overall rate. But more and more, job places are actually looking for people in recovery.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Listen, I was going over our files, but the main reason I called is...
FELDMAN: Delta Lighting runs a bustling call center just north of Philadelphia. It's - 50 or so sales reps sell lighting and cleaning supplies to companies across the country. Joe Arndt is vice president there. He's been recruiting workers with a history of addiction for years and says he's found they make for loyal employees. So when he saw a write up about Retrofit in the local paper, he called right away.
JOE ARNDT: I'm not going to sit here and say, like, we're saints and we looked at him. We're like, oh, wow. That's great. We really want to help the community, which we do. But, at the same time, we see it as an opportunity to get more employees like the ones that we've already gotten.
FELDMAN: Arndt says he knows there are risks involved hiring people in recovery. Commission jobs aren't for everyone, and the potential for relapse is real. But he says a lot of those are risks you'd come up against with anyone. At least this way, it's out in the open.
For NPR News, I'm Nina Feldman in Philadelphia.
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