There is a common misconception that most individuals seeking rehabilitation services for drug and alcohol abuse are either homeless or unemployed. In fact, statistics show that 76 percent of individuals seeking treatment are stably employed. The decision to enter treatment can be daunting and the thought of losing one’s job while engaging in treatment can serve as a further deterrent. However, there is good news for those who are working who wish to enter rehab. There are certain protections established by law which protect the employment of individuals engaged in treatment.
Engaging in and completing rehab increases the likelihood that an individual will not only remain stably employed but also advance in their careers. It is important to understand what completing rehab while working will entail and create a plan for success. For some, this will mean engaging in inpatient services and for others, it will mean completing outpatient rehab while continuing their day to day routine. Whatever course is taken, the most important thing is to make the decision to go to rehab. It may be a difficult decision, but it is one that will prove to improve the life and path of the person suffering from addiction.
Know Your Rights
There are federal laws which protect the employment of individuals seeking rehabilitation treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) states that drug and alcohol addiction is a serious medical condition and ensures that those seeking treatment will continue to have job stability (cannot be fired or demoted due to treatment) and access to health insurance during the time of their treatment. To be eligible for FMLA an individual must work for a covered employer, worked for that employer for 12 or more months, worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 month period prior to their medical leave request and work in an area where their employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. FMLA can be used to cover both inpatient and outpatient recovery options. Individuals who wish to engage in inpatient care can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. Those seeking outpatient care can use FMLA to cover any appointments or meetings that may occur during the workday.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)is another federal law that protects those seeking treatment. One thing to note is that the ADA does not provide protections for current illegal drug users. So for instance, if a person comes to work under the influence, an employer has the right to fire them and it will not be a violation of the employee’s rights. However, the ADA does provide protections and accommodations for individuals engaged in treatment. This means that if a person enters treatment or needs to miss some time from work to receive treatment, the time off is covered.
How to Access Benefits and Protections
To access benefits, an individual must notify their employer of their qualification for those benefits. For FMLA and individual will need to get a referral from their physician and inform their employer that they will need to take medical leave and would like to use FMLA. The individual does not have to tell their employer the reason they are taking medical leave or that they are going to rehab. If an employer denies an employees request to utilize the full 12 weeks guaranteed to them by law, the employee may have grounds to sue for discrimination.
Individuals may also have additional benefits available to them through their employer. It’s a good idea to apply for short-term disability if that benefit is available. Because FMLA is unpaid, short-term disability typically will provide between 50 and 100 percent of income during the medical leave period. If an individual’s job is covered by a union it is also a good idea to check with their union representative to see what additional employment protections may be available to them.
Steps to Take Before Seeking Treatment
- Set Up Meeting With Employer: As stated before, in order to access the FMLA protections, an individual must inform their employer of their need to take medical leave. The scheduled meeting should be private and will typically involve the human resources department specialist and the individual’s direct supervisor.
- Gather Information: It is a good idea to review the company handbook prior to engaging in the scheduled meeting. Individuals should fully understand their companies policies on medical leave and substance abuse.
- Conduct the Meeting: The individual should be prepared to answer any questions that may arise. Again, the reason for medical leave does not have to be disclosed. All information discussed during the meeting is required to be kept confidential.
Remaining Committed and Focused While in Rehab and After
Once all the paperwork is complete and an individuals employment is stabilized, it is of the utmost importance that they remain focused on their recovery. Staying focused and committed to getting better while in rehab increases the likelihood of success once treatment is complete. This means understanding that while there is likely to be stress from missing work, that stress is a short-term nuisance which will result in a long-term solution of the person successfully being able to live drug and/or alcohol-free.
The work doesn’t stop with the completion of rehab. Individuals who complete services must also understand that the choice to remain sober will result in a lifestyle change. Seeking out support is important, as is learning how to manage the stress of working and everyday life. Returning to work after an inpatient stay and missing work for outpatient visits may seem awkward and a bit stressful at first. Understanding that these feelings are temporary, having a reliable plan of action and relying upon a good source of support will make the recovery transition manageable.
The decision to go to rehab is difficult. The human brain is designed to resist engaging in things that may be difficult and instead rely on routine, even if that routine is unhealthy and debilitating. Because there are so many protections in place to ensure that individuals are able to remain employed while taking care of their health, employment should not be the barrier that keeps someone from deciding to go to rehab.
Have you been struggling with the decision to go to rehab? Do you now feel you’re ready to get started? Call us today at 866-754-9113. Our caring and compassionate counselors are available 24 hours a day. All it takes is one call to change your life.