Road to Recovery

What it means to have a ‘recovery-friendly’ workplace

Good Day Dakota

Among the many hurdles human beings face, those recovering or hoping to recover from addiction have a barrier that many of us don’t – a fair chance at employment.

Employers may not formally label themselves as such, but recovery-friendly workplaces do exist.

KX News spoke to people at one local workplace who say both the employee and the employer can benefit from giving someone a second, or maybe even third or fourth, chance at work.

“I honestly think every employee you bring in is a bit of a gamble.”
As the Executive Director at Independence Inc., Scott Burlingame speaks from experience.

“There’s not a winning formula, I’ve been hiring people for over 20 years and I’ve never found the formula that works every time,” Burlingame said. “But it’s about finding the right person.”

Chances are, the right person could be in recovery.

For example, Sarah Bachmeier, who celebrated three years of sobriety last month.

She said, “If somebody’s not willing to hire you because of it, then that’s not the right fit and you’ll find another one.”

She said Independence Inc. is ‘Recovery-Friendly’ because it’s open to giving employees the time to actively practice recovery. That means getting to treatment sessions, counseling appointments, or for some, a meeting with a parole or probation officer.

That’s another, big barrier. Criminal backgrounds and the job applications that ask about them.

“It’s basically a deterrent right there because they [applicants] understand that this will most likely disqualify them from even getting a callback or an interview or the ability to get in front of somebody and plead their case,” said Bachmeier.

However, some employers are willing to look past it.

Burlingame added, “To us, it isn’t about the changes that we make for employees, but rather the quality of work that we get when people are employed here.”

So what’s some advice? Bachmeier says, to be honest, communicate, and build relationships.
“We all need to do our part to just be kind enough to understand that human nature is a thing and people can still come back from even the worst kind of stuff.”

Burlingame says to consider how different the workforce is and how helpful those with non-traditional backgrounds can be.


Bachmeier’s job before Independence Inc. had her helping those in recovery get back to a new way of life, including finding a job.

In her experiences, she said locally-owned businesses are usually a little more willing to hire those with criminal records because they don’t have to jump through corporate hoop, but that doesn’t mean to rule big businesses out.

In the North Dakota, the state actually offers employers a Work Opportunity Tax Credit to hire certain groups of people, like veterans or ex-felons.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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