If you’ve decided to get help for substance use, you’ve already taken an important step. However, you may also be thinking about all of the logistics that go into getting treatment. In particular, you’re probably wondering “can I get fired for going to rehab?” Read on to learn more about your rights as an employee seeking substance abuse treatment.
If you’ve decided to get treatment for substance abuse, you probably have a lot of questions running through your mind. You may be wondering how you’re going to pay for it. Or if you should choose an inpatient or an outpatient program. And more likely than not, you’re probably wondering “can I get fired for going to rehab?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to that question. A lot of it depends on your current work situation. Things like how long you’ve been employed, how big your company is, and whether you’re currently sober will impact how you approach treatment.
In this article, you’ll learn how to discuss your addiction with your employer. You’ll also learn about programs for people seeking substance abuse treatment and see if you’re eligible.
How To Disclose Your Addiction To Your Employer
If you’re like a lot of people who suffer from substance abuse, disclosing your addiction to your employer is the most challenging part of seeking treatment. That’s because, despite advances in our understanding of addiction, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding it. What’s more, many people continue to debate whether or not addiction is really a disease.
Still, it’s essential that you discuss your substance use and your treatment plans with your employer. Drug and alcohol rehab is a team effort. Having your employer on your side will put you in a better position to achieve recovery.
If you’re still worried about getting fired for going to rehab, there are a few things that may reassure you. First, the law requires that your employer keep all of your health information confidential. Your colleagues won’t know the reason behind your absence and your reputation will remain intact.
Second, you are likely neither the first nor the last employee to come forward about having an addiction. It may not feel like it, but other people have gone through what you’re going through. Your employer knows how to handle these kinds of situations.
Lastly, hiding your addiction from your employer could interfere with your ability to perform well at work. Eventually, that could lead to performance issues and possible termination. Being open and honest about your addiction instead of waiting for your employer to confront you is the best option.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to talk to your employer about your addiction, it’s time to learn about the legal protections available.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects you when you take a leave of absence for treatment of a serious medical condition. It provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off annually without the risk of losing your job.
If you plan on using FMLA for substance use disorder, you should give your employer as much prior notification as possible. Failing to notify your employer could mean losing your FMLA coverage and your job. Similarly, if you enter treatment before telling your employer, FMLA doesn’t protect you.
In other words, doesn’t always protect you, however, you can’t get fired for going to rehab when you use FMLA as intended.
Do I qualify for FMLA?
The Family Medical Leave Act applies to all public agencies and businesses that employ 50 or more workers within a 75-mile radius. Employees can use FMLA if they’ve experienced one of the following life events:
- The birth of a child, adoption of a child from foster care, or initial fostering of a child from state care.
- An immediate family member requires care for a serious medical condition.
- You require treatment for a serious medical condition.
Substance use disorder is a qualifying medical condition under FMLA. Still, you may need a treatment referral from a healthcare provider in order to have your addiction classified as a “serious medical condition.”
In order to use FMLA benefits, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (totaling at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months).
Keep in mind that just because you fulfill the conditions for taking FMLA leave, you’re not always protected from legal action. If a company has a substance abuse policy that’s applied to employees in a non-discriminatory manner, your employment can be terminated. In addition, you can’t use FMLA to miss work because of substance use. You can only use it to attend substance abuse treatment.
If you don’t qualify for FMLA for one reason or another, other options are available. Keep reading to find out what they are.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of a disability or an illness. Under ADA, drug and alcohol addiction is a qualified disability. To enjoy protection under ADA, you must be the one to initiate the conversation about your substance use disorder with your employer.
ADA protects those who are no longer using illegal drugs and who are participating in a rehabilitation program. Furthermore, you’re entitled to “reasonable accommodations” under this program.
Examples include adjustments in your work schedule to attend intensive outpatient therapy or a temporary leave of absence for inpatient treatment.
Do I qualify for ADA coverage?
The ADA applies to all businesses that employ 15 or more workers. It doesn’t protect your job if you use substances at work or if substance use negatively impacts your job performance.
Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)
Under the MHPAEA, mental health and substance use disorder treatment must be treated the same as physical health treatments. As such, your employer’s health benefits must offer coverage for addiction treatment the same way they would for high blood pressure or diabetes.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stipulates that substance abuse treatment should be one of the 10 essential health benefits under employer-sponsored plans. In other words, if you’re on an employer-sponsored health plan, you should have coverage for substance use treatment.
Finding Treatment That Works For You And Your Employer
If you’re struggling with addiction and have a job, the laws are on your side. At a minimum, you don’t need to worry about getting fired for going to rehab.
If you’d like to learn more or are wondering how entering treatment will impact your employment, please fill out the form below and a member of our admissions team will contact you within 24 hours.