According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 70% of all persons using illicit drugs are employed either part-time or full-time.
If you are currently suffering from an addiction and are employed, you may be asking the question, “will I lose my job if I go to rehab?” When it comes to seeking substance use disorder treatment while employed, most will find that their jobs are protected and that they are able to receive the treatment they need while maintaining their job. In the United States, there are a number of laws that have been designed to protect the careers of those with addiction during treatment. Together, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Family Medical Leave of Absence Act help to protect those who seek treatment for addiction while employed.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is one that is designed to protect all persons with disabilities, including those who suffer from disabling addictions. This law applies to all employers who employ 15 or more persons. While the ADA may not protect your job if you are using illicit substances while at work or if you are performing poorly due to your drug or alcohol use, it does protect those who are currently enrolled in a drug or alcohol rehab program and are no longer using alcohol or illicit substances. When drug use is not defined as “current,” you are entitled to reasonable accommodations just as any other individual who suffers from a disability. This may include an adjustment in your schedule so that you may attend alcohol or substance abuse treatments or a temporary leave of absence to seek inpatient treatment for an addiction. It is important to note that you must be the one that initiates the conversation about your addiction to your employer in order for the ADA to protect you. If your employer initiates the conversation and it results in a suspicion drug test, your job is not protected.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, mental health and addiction treatment must be treated in the same manner as physical health treatment under the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act (MHPAEA). For those who suffer from addiction, this means that your employer-provided health insurance benefits are required to cover addiction treatment just as they would treat for diabetes or high cholesterol. While the MHPAEA does not require that employers include mental health and addictions coverage in their insurance package, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) does require insurers to include addictions treatment as part of their 10 essential health benefits. Because of these laws, addiction is considered to be a serious health condition that can be covered under the Family and Medical Leave of Absence Laws.
Under the Family and Medical Leave of Absence Act, employees’ jobs are protected for up to 12 weeks for a 12 month period during leaves of absences for medical reasons of your own or your immediate family, including for the treatment of a serious medical condition. For those who suffer from addiction, this may mean that they will need a referral for treatment from a healthcare provider in order to have their addiction qualify as a “serious health condition.” In order to qualify for FMLA for rehab, an employee must have worked for the company or organization for more than 12 months and must have worked more than 1250 hours in the past 12 months. Further, only those employers who have more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius are required to adhere to FMLA laws. Even with these specifications, many employees find that their jobs are protected under FMLA law. However, disclosure regarding addiction treatment is imperative to job protection under the law.
For many who suffer from addiction, the most difficult part of seeking treatment while still maintaining a job is disclosing the addiction to their employer. Because of the stigmatization that surrounds addiction and the debate revolving around if addiction really is a disease, you may feel afraid or uncomfortable when you consider discussing your addiction with your employer. However, it is imperative that you discuss your addiction and need for treatment with your employer so that they are able to accommodate your needs regarding treatment. Rest assured, your employer is required by law to keep all of your health information completely confidential, and this includes information regarding your addiction and treatment for addiction.
Most likely, you are not the first employee to come forward as having an addiction, and you will not be the last employee either. Your addiction may interfere with your ability to perform well at work and could eventually lead to performance issues and possible termination. Rather than waiting for your employer to confront you about your addiction, it is best to be open and honest with your employer in explaining that you suffer from addiction and want to seek treatment. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation requires a team effort, and having your employer on your team will only strengthen your ability to recover and remain clean.
Before approaching your employer, you will want to review your company’s drug and alcohol policies, along with researching whether or not you qualify for FMLA for rehab or other leave of absences. Approaching your employer with this information in hand will help to demonstrate that you are serious about seeking treatment and remaining an employee for the company. Let your employer know that you are ready to conquer your addiction and that in order to do so, you will need their support so that you can seek the treatment that you need.
Once you have completed your treatment and are ready to return to work, some employers may require that you complete a Return-to-Work Agreement. Your employer will likely work with your treatment team in order to develop the agreement. This may outline requirements such as regular drug screens and continued treatment compliance once you return from your treatment program. Bear in mind that the employer cannot discriminate against you because of your addiction, and any outright discrimination against you following your treatment is against the law. Many Last Chance Agreements are contingent on successfully completing a program. With these types of agreements, you must stay the entire time of the program and complete treatment in full in order to protect your employment.
If you are suffering from an addiction and are employed, know that the laws are on your side when it comes to protecting your job during a leave of absence for treatment. However, our inpatient rehab program and inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program for professionals are not the only option for treatment, and depending on the level of care you need, we also offer an intensive outpatient program that will not stop you from working. Even in the rare case that you do not qualify for FMLA, being open and honest with your employer will increase your odds of being able to keep your job even while you seek treatment. Although we understand your career is important, it’s more important to treat your addiction. A good employer will be willing to work with you to help you seek the treatment that you need.
You know the answer to “will I lose my job if I go to rehab?” Now that you are armed with the information, if you need substance use disorder treatment, know that Lakeview Health is ready to help you.
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