Many people wonder, “Will I lose my job if I go to rehab?” According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 76 percent of substance abusers are employed, yet only about 10 percent are in treatment. This tells us that the majority of people struggling with substance abuse or addiction are so worried about the repercussions of seeking treatment, they choose to forgo rehab in hopes of keeping their job.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the disease continues to progress, causing far more damage to their career than taking time off to go to rehab.
Furthermore, there are several laws and protections in place that protect those seeking addiction treatment, so there is no need to choose between the two. Here are the things every employee struggling with substance abuse needs to know:
- Know your legal rights: Does FMLA protect your job?
Luckily, there are several laws in place that protect those seeking addiction treatment. The American Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, protects those seeking treatment from a substance abuse disorder. Under the law, employees have the right to seek treatment without worrying about repercussions at their job.
If you are fired, you can sue your employer for discrimination. This applies to state and local government employees, as well as private companies with at least 15 employees. Furthermore, if you have health insurance, your treatment is covered by your policy by law. Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of medical leave for issues, including addiction treatment, every year.
Usually, FMLA leave is unpaid, so this may present a challenge to those who can’t afford to take the time off, but their job is guaranteed to be protected if they can swing it.
- Use all your resources
Depending on your employer, there may be free or discounted benefits available. Examples include an employee assistance program (EAP) or paid time off that you can apply toward your stay. If you do not have these benefits, or cannot afford to take time off, you can apply for disability benefits while you’re receiving treatment, until you can go back to work.
- Be upfront with your employer
In order to fully take advantage of your protected status, you should be upfront with your employer. While many people are hesitant or ashamed to speak up, chances are, your workplace may already know that something is going on. If they are in the loop, they can help ensure you receive all the benefits you’re entitled to.
Your employer is required to keep all personal medical details (including drug treatment) confidential under the ADA. Honest communication with your employer helps set you up for success at work once you return from treatment.
- Consider outpatient treatment
Inpatient rehab isn’t the only option. While some patients may need 24/7 attention during the treatment, others may do well in an outpatient program. This allows patients to largely stick to their day-to-day lives while attending meetings, receiving counseling, and taking drug tests.
If you go this route, it’s still probably best to keep your employer in the loop, if you’re comfortable doing so, in case detox or treatment causes temporary performance problems on the job.
Long-term, getting sober is a much better career move. Once you’re free from the bonds of addiction, your work performance will almost definitely improve. Once you’re on the path to recovery, it’s critical that you hold up your end of the bargain. While your employer is required by law to allow certain accommodations, you must also hold up your end of the bargain.
In order to make sure you’re in good standing once you return, you’ll need to complete drug treatment, including any outpatient meetings, and honor any “return to work” agreements put in place by your employer before leaving. While addiction treatment is a protected status, addiction itself is not. This means if you relapse and show up to work drunk or high, fail a drug test, or miss too many days, you are not entitled to keep your job.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help, today. Our trained specialists are waiting to help.