Many Americans live double lives. One one hand, they have a social life, family and a steady job. On the other, however, they self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to help themselves get through each day. If this sounds like you, you aren’t alone. It’s not uncommon for even the most professional employees to struggle with addiction issues. Indeed, research shows that as many as 60 percent of people know someone with this problem.
If you’re battling an addiction, your biggest fear is likely the security of your job. Even if they want to get clean, many people are afraid that their boss will fire them once it’s discovered that they’re entering rehab. However, while this fear is understandable, it’s largely unfounded. Short of using illegal drugs or using substances on the job, it’s illegal to fire someone just because they’ve chosen to seek help for their addiction.
What if My Boss Finds Out?
Your boss may find out about your plans for rehab if you choose to notify them, but they can’t legally take action against you for it. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), substance addiction is a valid disability. Firing you simply for entering rehab is considered discrimination, something that could land an employer in a lot of legal trouble.
Unfortunately, there is one exception to this rule. If your performance on the job has suffered as a result of your addiction, or if you’re using on the job, an employer can terminate you. However, they must be able to prove that this was the case. If you enter rehabilitation before receiving any reprimands or disciplinary actions, your employer cannot terminate you based solely on past performance issues.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you’re currently using illegal substances. Although the ADA lists addiction as a legitimate disability, you are not protected in these circumstances and your employer can legally terminate you. That said, if you’ve been in rehab for illicit drugs and are no longer taking them, or if you’re currently in rehab for this issue, the ADA will still apply to you. Keep in mind that an employer still reserves the right to order you to submit to a drug test, so if you haven’t already, you should enter rehab sooner rather than later.
Will My Boss Hold My Job?
According to the law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees who are currently attending or have been to rehab. This can include altering your schedule to allow you to go to meetings and giving you time off to attend rehab. You may also have certain protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that can prevent you from being terminated or having your position given away.
What About My Career?
Some people fear seeking rehabilitation because they’re worried their skills will suffer while they’re in treatment. In truth, your skill is more likely to suffer if you don’t get help for your problem. During the rehabilitation process, your body and mind will begin to detoxify. This restores your cognitive ability, leaving you feeling more clear-headed and capable of doing the job well. Rehab also enables you to address both your substance use and its underlying causes that may have previously dominated your thoughts. By working through these things, you will become better able to focus on your job with fewer distractions.
How Do I Pay For It?
Combined with the fear of losing your job, you may also be worried about how you can afford rehabilitation. However, there are some things you can do to minimize the burden. If you’ve built up paid vacation time, you can use this to enter rehab and still get paid. If you have health or disability insurance through your job, this may pay for all or some of your treatment. Regardless, you can view rehab as an investment that alters your life for the better. Without it, you may continue to struggle at your job until your boss has no choice but to fire you.
How Can the FMLA Help Me? Can I Keep My Job If I’m Enrolled in Drug Rehab?
The FMLA guarantees Americans the right to unpaid time off while protecting their positions. Under the law, you’re entitled to 12 weeks of family or medical leave each year. Should you decide to enter rehab, the FMLA states that you cannot lose your job as a result. Furthermore, your employer doesn’t have to know that you’re in rehab. All they will know is that you’ve entered treatment for private health issues.
What About My Reputation?
It’s common to worry that other people will think badly of you or lose respect for you if they know you’ve entered rehab. However, it’s much more likely that people will think more of you for it. Opting to seek help shows that you recognize the problem and that you don’t want it to rule your life and ruin your job. This is a difficult endeavor that requires a lifetime of effort and dedication, which is something that anyone should respect.
Recovering from an addiction is never easy, especially when you worry that your job will be threatened by the decision to get help. However, it’s important to know that the law is on your side in this matter. Don’t let fears about your job stop you from getting better. If you have a problem, seek rehab as soon as possible.