If you’re seeking help for an addiction, you’ve already taken the first step toward recovery. It’s natural to have anxieties about treatment, especially when misinformation and stigma about rehab abounds. Many people put off going to rehab because they’re afraid of losing their jobs or being judged by friends and family members.
When you’re seeking a rehab, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Becoming healthy again is your number one priority. The supportive people in your life want you to be healthy. You cannot perform adequately at your job if you’re struggling with an untreated addiction.
- Rehabs vary their treatment programs and levels of intensity. You may be able to find one that allows you to schedule around work.
- You have a legal right to get treatment without losing your position, regardless of where you work.
Understanding Your Legal Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act, otherwise known as the ADA, has put federal protections in place for people with disabilities. A diagnosed substance abuse disorder counts as a disability. According to the ADA, businesses and employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for their disabled employees. Employers also cannot fire an employee just because of their disability. This means you have a legal right to seek treatment without losing your job.
Reasonable accommodations include adjustments to your schedule so you can seek outpatient treatment, as well as time off to detox and get well in a residential treatment facility.
Health insurance companies are also required by law to cover your addiction treatment, whether the health insurance is supplied through your employer or not. You’ll only need to worry about copays, and oftentimes rehab facilities have financial aid to help with those.
It’s important to note that having a diagnosed addiction qualifies you for disability protection, but addictive behaviors don’t have the same protection. This means that if your drug or alcohol use affects your work, your employer is allowed to fire you. Your employer cannot fire you simply for having addiction, but they can fire you if your addiction interferes with the workplace.
Resources for Job Security
In addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are resources you can use to help your workplace function without you while you’re in treatment. The following benefits are commonplace in many jobs, and they may help you get extra time off:
- Accrual of sick leave
- Vacation time and personal days
- Employee wellness and assistance programs
FMLA is a federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act. Workers who meet the standards of eligibility are allowed to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. This leave is protected, so you can’t be fired while you’re gone. Addiction rehab qualifies as a medical leave.
How to Ask for Recovery Time Off
If you’re worried about what your coworkers will think, fear not: the ADA prohibits employers from discussing the medical situations of their employees. Your drug rehab will be kept confidential unless you choose to disclose it to your coworkers yourself. Should your employer tell people you’re at a rehab center without your consent, they are breaking the law.
It’s very important to be honest with your employer when you ask for time off. Transparency and accountability are ways to show that you intend to complete treatment and commit to bettering your life. Your employer may even be glad that you’ve confided in them; you’re almost guaranteed to have better work performance after recovery.
You need to talk to your employer about your addiction before you do something that could get you fired, like coming to work high or drunk or failing a drug test. Being proactive is the first and foremost way you can go to rehab and keep your job. You need to take responsibility to prove that you’re a worthwhile employee.
Before you go to your employer, you should have a clear understanding of your future treatment plan. That way, you can tell your employer in detail exactly what accommodations you need. This will help make the conversation much smoother than an unprepared request would. You should gather the following information:
- The name of the rehab center you intend to go to
- The projected length of your stay
- Any future schedule accommodations that will be necessary for outpatient treatment
- If necessary, information about the relevant parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act
Emphasize that this is a medical situation and that you are committed to getting help.
Committing to Your Sobriety
After you’ve gotten your rehab approved, you’ll need to stick to your part of the bargain. If you fail to act responsibly, your employer could find grounds to fire you for the work you miss. Make sure you do the following:
- Complete the treatment plan and do not leave your treatment center early
- Continue with outpatient rehab and therapy sessions
- Comply with any necessary drug tests
- Attend 12-step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous
- Complete any “Return-to-Work” contracts that your employer has created
Your employer does have the right to create a plan for your return to work. Compliance with this plan is necessary, especially if you work in a job in which many other people depend on you. If you fall behind on your workload during your rehab, sometimes a Return-to-Work plan can help you strategize ways to catch up.
The most important thing to remember is that you have a legal right to your treatment. Nobody should have to suffer an addiction because they’re afraid of the financial consequences. If you’re ready to take the first step toward your sobriety, our trained counselors are available twenty-four hours a day. You can call 888-380-0342 for more information about your legal rights and treatment options.