How Going to Rehab Affects Your Job

man appearing stressed at work

You are almost there. You have admitted to yourself that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and you need to get help. You have picked up the phone a dozen times to contact a treatment center, but each time you hang up before you dial. There is still one thing standing in your way. It is your job.

This scenario plays out for thousands of addicts every day. Whether you work in construction, the school system, on Wall Street, or in an office building, everybody is afraid of losing his or her job for seeking help.

Employees who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction are usually unaware of their rights when it comes to seeking treatment for their disease.

Keeping Your Job While in Rehab

Surviving financially while in Washington State rehab is only one of the worries people with substance use disorders have. They also wonder if their job will be waiting for them when they get out. They may have childcare to consider or other responsibilities that make them feel like all the cards are stacked against getting clean in Washington State rehab.

The truth is if you let your work stop you from getting sober, eventually you will bring your disorder to the job site, and most of the time that does not end well. Never let a job keep you from trying to take back control of your life.

So, what are your options for keeping your job while in Washington State rehab?

First, consider your paid time off and employee benefits. Do you have enough vacation or sick hours to check into rehab? That is probably unlikely, as most Washington state rehab programs run 30 to 90 days. But you may have a short-term employee disability policy that could apply to this situation. You should be able to speak confidentially to your HR department or Employee Assistance Program to determine your options. Many employers today have policies governing employees that seek substance use treatment including the Americans With Disabilities Act and Family nad Medical Leave Act.

The Americans With Disabilities Act

Seattle rehab center

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) classifies chemical dependency as a disability. This means that you are protected from discrimination based on your addiction as long as you are qualified for the job you do.

However, there is an exception if you are currently using/abusing drugs or alcohol. If the employer’s policy states that employees can be fired for inadequate job performance, then you are vulnerable. If your work is suffering because of your addiction, you are eligible for termination.

That said, if you voluntarily seek treatment before you are fired, you instantly become protected. Under the ADA, an employee cannot be fired for past transgressions or poor performance. This is an added impetus to seek treatment immediately; it will potentially save your job.

TheFamily and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave for a variety of medical reasons, including drug or alcohol dependency treatment. You cannot be fire while attending treatment, and your position, salary, and benefits are guaranteed upon your return.

However, the FMLA has strict eligibility requirements. You must have worked for this employer for the past 12 consecutive months, and have at least 1,250 accumulated hours.

In addition, the process for requesting leave is quite formal and long. It is important that you speak to your employer before you commit to a treatment facility; otherwise, you lose FMLA protection.

How to Approach Your Employer

Seattle rehab center

This may be one of the hardest conversations you ever have with your boss, but it is extremely important. Think about what you are afraid of:

  • Job Loss: As employment laws now stand, your job will likely be protected while you seek treatment.
  • Judgment: If you are afraid that your employer and co-workers will think poorly of you for seeking treatment, you are not alone. It is a common fear. Chances are that your boss and co-workers will appreciate your decision and be ready to support you on your journey. That support network will be extremely important both during and after your treatment, and it is crucial that it is based on trust and honesty.

Speak to your employer with openness and honesty, and be content in the knowledge that your decision to seek treatment for substance abuse is the best possible decision you can make for yourself, for your loved ones, and even for your employer.

Returning to Work After Rehab

If you are able to return to work after rehab, the office may feel quite different and perhaps awkward. It is important to decide how you are handling any questions that may arise from co-workers before going into the office. It is up to you how to field coworkers’ questions; telling the truth is one way to handle it, but you may want to prevent the possibility of being judged for your addiction. Talk with your counselors in rehab about your transition back to work; they will help you sort through how to handle any issues that may arise.

The most important thing to know about your job and addiction treatment is that, no matter what happens to your job, getting the appropriate help to battle your addiction is the main priority. Contact the Recovery Village Ridgefield today to discuss treatment options.