You may fear drug or alcohol rehab will halt or hurt your career, and you’re not the only one. Many people put off substance abuse treatment, thinking they’ll lose their job or look bad at work. Luckily, federal law protects you in the workplace as you recover from addiction. Know your rights as an employee, and see it’s possible to get alcohol addiction treatment while keeping your position.
Prepare for Rehab
If you seek rehab treatment for alcoholism, prepare to speak to your employer. Brush up on your employee rights under federal protections and know the limitations of treatment before you begin that essential discussion.
Know the Family and Medical Leave Act
Many federal statutes protect your right to work and get recovery. One of these safeguards is FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives you up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave each year for health conditions. Addiction is a federally protected medical disease that qualifies.
FMLA allows you to seek the help you need while protecting your job during the time you’re in treatment. If you want to benefit from the act, you’ll need to have worked for the employer for 12 months or more with 1,250 hours of work annually. With the 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence, you can successfully complete a structured, supervised rehab program—inpatient or outpatient—and return to work without drug addiction or substance abuse issues.
Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act
Once you complete addiction treatment programs and attend rehab, you’ll be protected from possible discrimination in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Addiction, as a federally recognized medical condition and disability, qualifies for most protections under the law so that getting better is never held against you.
Explore All Your Federal Protections
Several related laws—such as The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and HIPAA—offer further help. Federal employees get protected under the Rehabilitation Act, while HIPAA stops information about your health from being leaked to an employer for possible discrimination or retaliation.
With FMLA and HIPAA, you can be sure that your employer cannot fire you for seeking treatment for a health condition as serious as alcoholism or addiction. You may also want to familiarize yourself with employer-stated policies in your company’s handbook surrounding medical leave and such requests.
There may be additional, state-determined ways of protecting your job while you get treated for alcoholism. You should speak to an employment lawyer in your state if you think you’ll need to use the full extent of the law to protect your job.
Research Treatment Options
Having reviewed legal protections and employee literature, you should create a plan for discussing treatment with your employer. With all the information ready to go over, your employer may be impressed and inspired by your commitment to creating a better life for yourself.
You can look to employee assistance programs, for example, which are popular ways that employers help workers with personal issues like substance abuse and mental health problems. There is also the need to investigate your employer-sponsored health insurance to see which facilities or programs might be covered before you spend out-of-pocket.
This can all help you decide which course of treatment and which facilities are a good match for your recovery:
- Medically supervised detox
- Inpatient and residential rehab
- Appointment-based outpatient treatment
- Medication management
- Telehealth therapy
You may need to consider worker programs for medical detox if you have a severe addiction and the possibility of attending a full-time, residential drug and alcohol rehab center. If things are more managed than that, you can use outpatient rehab and therapy to get the care you need.
Tell Your Employer
By now, you’ll be prepared to discuss what successful help will look like with your employer. At large businesses, this could mean reaching out to human resources, your direct manager, or upper-level executives. At a smaller workplace, you might only need to speak with the owner and administrator of benefits. Who you meet with depends on the company; you’ll know who’s most relevant based on your experience on the job.
The key component here is having an objective, open conversation about the situation you urgently find yourself in. Your recovery is a proactive step toward improved functioning, and it should look that way to your employer by presenting your plan to get better, which accommodations you need, and how long treatment will require time off. There may need to be follow-up talks about making the arrangements necessary and a little paperwork on your part.
Some effective strategies for talking with your managers or supervisors can include:
- Speaking with coworkers first, for perspective.
- Explaining how treatment will make you a better employee
- Preparing a rehab plan to demonstrate seriousness
- Considering how the company can manage your absence
If the conversation goes well, you might sign a Return-to-Work agreement so that expectations of you and your employer are clear, written, and enforceable. They can ask you to do the following in order to successfully return to your role:
- Observe recommendations from treatment providers
- Offer reports on the progress of your treatment
- Attend support and recovery groups post-treatment
- Submit to occasional alcohol and drug tests
- Acknowledge performance-based expectations
To continue working for the company, you must follow the Return-to-Work agreement. By going against any of the terms, you’ll make it possible for your employer to legally terminate you—regardless of your medical substance use disorders.
Plan Your Responses
People at work will ask about you and your medical leave. being prepared to answer these questions with a thoughtful response will help take the worry away. You might choose to be open about your struggle with substance abuse, or you might decide privacy is best. Whatever your reply—make sure that you feel in control of conversations about your health in the workplace.
Choose The Haven New England
Overall, the best thing you can do to make sure you have a comfortable job when you finish treatment is to prepare yourself. Understand your rights under federal protections, plan your treatment according to your condition, and know how to discuss medical leave at work.
The Haven New England is here to help. Throughout, we’ll promote your self-efficacy and independence as you work on feeling better. During treatment, our counselors can help you address any difficulty or worries you might have about keeping your job. Centers can work with your employer to coordinate care, leave, and requests as well.
Contact The Haven New England at (844) 933-4145 to learn more about effective treatment with workplace protections.