How to Get Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder Without Losing Your Job

While professional treatment is your best bet for overcoming a substance use disorder, that doesn’t mean it’s without barriers. If concerns about maintaining employment are holding you back from starting the services you need, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll calm your fears so you can take a break from work and get your life back.

Weighing the costs of treatment

Many people who struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol avoid seeking treatment due to the fear of job loss, and for good reason. Most employers are not keen to let their workers to be gone for a long stretch. When a person takes a hiatus for treatment, a company faces lost productivity, changed dynamics and a readjustment period when the employee returns to the workplace.

While there are surely cons to taking a break for rehab, there’s no doubt it’s worth it. Your work life will be permanently impacted by an addiction that goes untreated, and the outcome will only get worse the longer you refrain from intervention.

It’s the nature of an addiction that it will spiral given time, affecting every area of your life. While you may feel that your substance use is functional now, it will only progress with time. It’s essential to your career and your financial stability that you make the investment in treatment now.

Protecting your job

Once you’ve acknowledged that treatment for a substance use disorder is necessary, you’ll want to learn about the legal protections you are entitled to.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a federal law enacted in 1990. This law ensures that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. Under the ADA, a substance use disorders qualifies as a disability. Title I of the ADA emphasizes that a person who is overcoming an addiction has a right to reasonable accommodations in a workplace.

There are several implications of ADA that might affect you in your job. First, anyone who has a substance use disorder cannot be fired or disciplined for attending rehab. This protects your job security, however, an employer can still hold the same expectations as the rest of the company’s employees regarding conduct and performance.

In rare circumstances, an employee’s absence will cause unnecessary hardship to an employer and jeopardize some functioning of the business. In these rare cases, an employee who attends rehab may be terminated, according to the ADA National Network.

Moreover, someone who is in treatment for a substance use disorder may be in a medication assisted treatment program. An employer may not fire someone who is using a legally prescribed medication to treat a drug or alcohol addiction, nor many an employer fire someone after finding out about a history of addiction.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 also provides some protection for those who choose to pursue rehab for an addiction. According to the United States Department of Labor, an individual may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid work off from a job in the form of medical leave to treat a serious condition. An employer must ensure that after the 12 weeks, the position will not be revoked.

There are certain stipulations with FMLA, though. For example, you must have worked for the employer for 12 months prior to taking medical leave, and the company must employ over 50 people for FMLA to apply. If you’re hoping to use FLMA to attend rehab for substance use, read up on the law and your own companies policies before making the final decision.

Telling your boss

While a person struggling with a substance use disorder has several legal protections, an employer is still entitle to fire an employee who does not meet performance and conduct standards. So, when you intend to chat with your boss about attending rehab, you’ll want to hit on some important points.

First, you’ll want to share the information in a private setting and clarify whether or not you’ll want to news to be shared with the rest of the company. It’s best to detail your plans for attending rehab (such as your start and return to work date) and answer any logistical questions (like who would cover for you). It’s not a bad idea to reassure your boss that the quality of your work will only improve with this life change.

If your employer treats you differently after learning about your history, reduces your wage or prevents you from participating in treatment, you may need to talk with a lawyer.

Handling the social aspect

One of the trickiest parts of keeping your job after attending rehab is the social discomfort it invites. While your employer may keep your secret, your absence will definitely be noticed by your coworkers, and if left without an answer they’ll start to fill in the blanks themselves.

The decision to disclose an addiction is always up to you, and sometimes it’s in your best interest to ignore the rumors and stay silent. If you chose to disclose your struggle with drugs or alcohol, be sure to share only with people you trust, or address everyone at once to quell rumors and speculation in the bud.

Sharing about your journey may feel uncomfortable, but if you feel it’s the best choice for you, opening up can take a weight off your shoulders, earn your coworker’s respect and maybe even inspire someone else.

Treatment that works for you

While attending an inpatient rehab program is surely within your right, it’s not always feasible. Many individuals prefer outpatient treatment that is flexible and doesn’t interfere with work or family time. If this is the case for you, check out Rehab After Work. Convenient scheduling make recovery less stressful and more attainable. Call (610) 644-6464 to learn more and sign up, or schedule your appointment today.