If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol use, rehab is a logical and healthy next step. Unfortunately, if you’re working full time, finding the time to go normally means taking time off work to do so. While most of us first consider using our vacation days and going in our own time, that’s often not enough to meet the needs of a 30-90-day rehab program. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways the law supports you going to rehab and getting the help you need, without risking your job.
In fact, the U.S. law protects you from being fired for going to rehab, even if your boss knows where you’re going and why. That’s because substance use disorders or addictions are classified as a temporary disability under U.S. law. Your employer isn’t legally allowed to discriminate against you because of them. Therefore, you have significant protection when you go to get help. However, the extent of that protection and how it impacts you will depend on your employer and your contract.
Your first step should always be to review your contract. Here, you can check your employer’s specific policies, what they offer, and whether you’ve signed a morality clause. Here, your contract may state that in order to uphold the moral standing of the company and its reputation, you may be fired for using illicit substances while under the employ of the company. In addition, they may be able to fire you for DUIs or other criminal offenses.
If your contract contains one of these clauses it may be important not to tell your boss that you have an addiction. Instead, you’ll want to rely on their insurance and sick leave offerings.
From there, you should check HR offerings. These are normally available in an HR booklet, on-demand when asked for, or via a portal. The larger your company, the more there will be. Here, you’ll want to check sick leave and employee assistance programs.
In addition, even if your employer is too small to offer an employee assistance program, you can always take FMLA leave. FMLA allows you to take up to 3 months of unpaid medical leave, without disclosing the reason to your boss.
The U.S. has a number of laws in place to help people into treatment. Some of the most important of those are laws defining substance use disorders as temporary disabilities, meaning that you also fall under the protection of the family and medical leave act.
Americans with Disabilities Act – The Americans with Disabilities Act classifies substance use disorders a temporary disability. This means that your employer cannot legally fire you or discriminate against you for a substance use disorder. Keep in mind that you cannot get ADA assistance or temporary disability payments while abusing illicit drugs. Here, you’ll have to detox first before applying for short-term disability.
Family and Medical Leave Act – The Family and Medical Leave Act offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave to any person, which your employer has to accept. While you may need a doctor’s note to get final approval, you do not have to tell your employer why you are requesting leave, or even whether it is for you or for a family member. Here, your employer is not legally allowed to ask about reasons, if they do you are not required to tell them, and you can protect your privacy.
Here, it’s important to keep in mind that FMLA does not affect you if you’ve been employed for less than a year or if your employer has less than 50 employees. Most importantly, if you are granted it, you can apply for short-term disability to offset not having a paycheck for the period.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance programs have to cover a portion of rehab. Here, rates vary from a small percentage to nearly the full cost of care depending on the type of care and the provider. If you go with a preferred provider, you will get more coverage. In addition, this means that your employer’s insurance has to cover your care. Finally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that rehab is a medical right. This means your employer is legally prevented from denying you access to care – meaning that they cannot prevent you from taking time off and they cannot fire you for taking that time off.
Taking time off from work can mean telling the truth and disclosing your substance use disorder. However, it isn’t required. If you expect negative repercussions, you don’t have to disclose your disorder. That’s especially true if you work as a doctor, lawyer, or other career where moral standing is usually held in high regard. Substance abuse disorders are mental health problems not a moral problem, however, many people don’t see them that way.
In addition, you should avoid disclosing to your boss if you:
In fact, even if your employer is tolerant about you seeking out treatment, they may still fire you if they realize you’ve used on-premises in the past. That’s also true if you have a history of being high or drunk when you show up to work and your employer puts one and one together. You might be fired for past behavior, as long as your employer can legitimize it. So, you’ll likely want to consider your behavior at work including missed days, quality, etc., before disclosing to your boss.
Otherwise, you can feel free to disclose that you are going to rehab to your boss. Some people prefer to disclose to their boss after they come back from rehab. And, in other cases, you might prefer to not share at all. The important thing is that if you do disclose, you will likely benefit from more assistance, including better terms for taking time off to go to rehab.
Good luck with your treatment.
Asana Recovery offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services at our center located in Orange County, California. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.