For most of his life when he was in between jobs, Tim Tulvey would
toss his resume up on a hiring site like Indeed.com. He had decades of
management experience working for landscaping companies, and even owned
his own pest control business for a while.
"I was getting hits
left and right," Tulvey said, recalling previous times he'd posted. "I
mean, there was companies reaching out to me a lot."
But this time was different. This time, he had been through rehab, and picked up an assault charge. He didn't get any bites.
For many with a history of addiction, finding a job can be tough. Of the 22 million adults in recovery in the United States, nine percent
are unemployed — that's more than double the overall rate. There are
lots of reasons for this - addiction can cause people to go long stints
without working, and that doesn't look great on a resume. For others,
like Tulvey, addiction goes hand-in-hand with jail time and a criminal
But that doesn't necessarily make them less qualified
for a job — or at least, that's the logic behind a new hiring website
called Retrofit Careers, designed specifically for people in recovery.
Tulvey was 50 years old when he decided he had to stop drinking.
It had gotten bad — each day when he woke up, he knew he'd be drinking
by lunchtime until he went to bed at night. He had no illusions that
quitting would be easy — he checked himself into rehab and after, moved
into a recovery house to get back on his feet. But he was homesick, and
wanted to move back into his own place. As soon as he did, he started
drinking again. One day, he blacked out and threw a glass at the wall,
hitting his wife. He was arrested for assault and spent almost a month
Tulvey had been working as a warehouse manager for a
construction company, and through rehab and the assault charge, his boss
agreed to keep him on. But maintaining regular hours on probation can
be tricky — as a condition of his release, Tulvey had to carry a
breathalyzer that he was required to blow into at random times to give
his bail officer a blood alcohol level. But, Tulvey says, often the
machine didn't work right. So, to prove he wasn't drinking, he would
have to take a train from his job in the northern suburbs of
Philadelphia, into the city, and hop on another train to head South to
the courthouse where he would blow a negative breathalyzer test in
person for his bail officer.
Pretty soon, Tulvey's boss said
all the trips to see his bail officer were eating up too much of the
workday, and he let him go.
Tulvey put his resume on Indeed,
like usual, but he didn't get any responses. He figured potential
employers must be doing background checks. So, he stopped even applying
for lots of the jobs he thought he'd be qualified for.
now, I'm steering away from anything that I think might be iffy as far
as, you know, having an assault on your record," Tulvey said. "I mean,
I'm not that person, but the word assault says it all."
Eventually, Tulvey got a job with the recovery house where he
lives — they knew about his past, but also trusted that he was a good
That idea — that with a little context, employers will
give someone a chance — is the foundation for Retrofit Careers. Doug
Kiker, who has been sober for 13 years, is one if its founders. 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.
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," Kiker explained.
It may seem like a tough
sell to ask employers to pay to post jobs that draw from a pool of
applicants in recovery. So far, Retrofit has just a handful of employers
advertising for jobs. But more and more, job places are actually
looking for people with a history of addiction. While private job boards
are less common, some states are aggregating "recovery friendly workplace" lists.
lighting runs a bustling call center just north of Philadelphia. Its 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 great employees.
"They're tremendously loyal
to us, and they just work harder because they realize that they don't
necessarily have a lot of other options which is kind of sad," he said.
When Arndt heard about Retrofit, he called to see how he could advertise for open positions at Delta.
not gonna sit here and say like we're saints and we really want to help
the community, which we do, but at the same time, we see it is an
opportunity to get more employees like the ones we had gotten," he
Arndt says he knows there are risks involved with
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.