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How to Tell Your Boss You Need Addiction Treatment

by Landmark Recovery

February 15, 2023
An employee speaks to his boss about going into addiction treatment for drug and alcohol rehab.

For individuals struggling with substance abuse, seeking addiction treatment can be a difficult and complex decision. It may seem particularly problematic when it comes to how to approach your employer. Despite the progress made in establishing addiction in the American social consciousness as a chronic and relapsing disease, the stigma and discrimination faced by those with substance use disorders in the workplace remain prevalent.

Can You Be Fired For Going to Rehab??

Employers should view addiction treatment the same way they view any medical treatment, which fallsA co-worker returns to work with thumbs up to signify that he's in recovery from substance abuse after addiction treatment. under federal protection. You should not be fired for going to rehab. The fear of losing your job is often a barrier for people considering seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, with the right information and support, the workplace can be a catalyst for healing. 

Many employees are unaware of the resources available to them like employee assistance plans (EAPs) and leave options under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). By exploring these resources and openly discussing their struggles with addiction with their employer, individuals can take the first step towards recovery.

However, the question of job security remains a valid concern. Even though laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offer protections to workers in recovery from addiction, there is no guaranteed protection from termination in every case. 

Employers can still terminate employment if the employee’s drug or alcohol use negatively impacts their work performance or poses a threat to themselves or coworkers. However, seeking treatment and utilizing legal protections can greatly reduce the likelihood of termination.

What’s Not Protected by FMLA and ADA for Rehab?

It’s important to note that current drug use is not protected by the ADA. Although, past use and enrollment in a residential treatment program can qualify as a disability. Alcoholism, if it limits a major life activity, is also considered a disability under the ADA. 

In the case of alcoholism, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations like a modified work schedule for 12-step meetings or a leave of absence. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also encourages employees with alcohol-related problems to seek addiction treatment, warning of potential consequences if they do not.

In conclusion, while job security can be a concern for those seeking treatment for addiction, there are resources and legal protections available to support individuals on their journey to recovery.

7 Steps for Securing Your Position while You Get Rehab

A woman confidently returns to her office after regaining control of her life after addiction treatment.That said, being proactive and informed can help mitigate concerns about keeping your job. Here are several strategies to consider when discussing your rehabilitation journey with your employer:

  1. Establish Rehab Plans: Make sure you actually have arrangements already made. If you’re going to tell your supervisor that you’ll be taking a leave of absence for addiction treatment, get the details of that rehab program first. That way, you have information to share. You can make those arrangements by calling an addiction specialist at 888.448.0302.
  2. Timely Communication: It is essential to have an upfront and honest conversation with your employer as soon as possible. Early intervention can help prevent the loss of a job down the line.
  3. Knowledge of Company Policies: Research your company’s policies on substance abuse and the resources available to employees. Check with Human Resources if necessary. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you work at a recovery-ready workplace, which would make all this much easier.
  4. Understanding of Legal Rights: Familiarize yourself with your rights under the law to ensure that you receive the necessary help and support for your recovery.
  5. Confidentiality: Avoid discussing your plans with coworkers before talking to your boss to ensure that the message is not distorted.
  6. Preparation: Have your treatment plan in place and be ready to share the details with your employer. This will show your commitment to recovery and provide reassurance to your boss.
  7. Honesty is Key: Be straightforward about the time you need off for treatment and the potential impact on your work performance. Be transparent about how rehabilitation will help you become a better employee and positively contribute to the workplace.

Ultimately, approaching the topic of substance abuse with your employer requires preparation and sensitivity. By considering these strategies and being honest about your needs, you can create a positive and supportive environment for your recovery journey.

Medical Leave for Behavioral Disability

FMLA provides a safety net for those struggling with substance abuse. Under this 1993 legislation, eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for qualifying conditions, including addiction. 

To be eligible, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. That has to include a minimum of 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months. It may also permit that you have worked at a facility employing 50 or more people within 75 miles.

Discrimination based on disability is prohibited by federal law, though. Those with past or current drug or alcohol issues are protected under ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. However, the number of those seeking treatment for drug and alcohol use disorders remains low with only a fraction of those in need actually getting the help they need.

For people who work and simultaneously grapple with addiction, the fear of stigma or job loss may prevent them from seeking treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that, from 2008 to 2012, mining and construction were respectively the leading industries for alcoholic employees. 

Food services and hospitality greatly led all other industries for illicit drug abuse. Food and hospitality also led the way for substance use disorder diagnoses. It is essential to be aware of one’s rights and protections, so that those struggling with addiction can access the support they need without fear of repercussions.

Treatment Can Help

Don’t let the fear of losing your job stop you from reclaiming control of your life from addiction. While you might not think this addiction alone can cost you your job, it’s highly likely to do so eventually. You’re more likely to be fired from a job if you don’t seek treatment. An addiction will catch up with you at some time. Get help before it’s too late.

First thing’s first — call an addiction specialist at 888.448.0302. You should also visit Landmark Recovery online to get a better understanding of treatment options. You can also arrange for enrollment from there.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.