Deciding to get treatment for addiction or alcoholism is a big step. While this choice should be celebrated, it can also cause a great deal of anxiety and fear. You may be wondering whether deciding to go to rehab will cause your boss to fire you.
Fortunately, there are a few things that protect you from being fired from your job for seeking addiction treatment.
As substance use disorders are considered mental health conditions, laws have been put in place to ensure that you will not be discriminated against or wrongfully terminated from a job for getting the help you need.
Because fear of losing employment is a huge barrier to addiction treatment, you need to understand what protects you from being fired for going to rehab and how to talk to your boss about going on medical leave.
Job Protections Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that protects individuals from job termination for attending an addiction treatment program. Under this law, the United State Department of Labor states that individuals can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work to take care of family or health concerns. This includes substance abuse treatment.
Additionally, the FMLA protection is reset annually, meaning you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work each year. This is great news if you struggle with chronic addiction relapse or have co-occurring health conditions.
Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for FMLA. You qualify for FMLA if:
- You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
- You have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
- You are employed at a site that employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles
If you meet the above criteria, you cannot be fired for going to rehab, a mental health treatment facility, or caring for any other family or health concern. However, you must follow the FMLA process to ensure protection. This means notifying your employer before going to your addiction treatment facility.
Understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
There is another protection that you can use to ensure that you won’t get fired for going to rehab. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against employees who have disabilities. Mental health conditions are considered a disability under this act, including substance use disorders.
It is important to note that this does not protect you from being fired if you are caught using drugs or alcohol on the job. Additionally, you can still be fired for failing a drug test. This law is meant to prevent you from being discriminated against when attempting to gain employment or keep employment while attending a mental health or addiction treatment facility.
If you willingly seek professional addiction treatment, the ADA protects you from being fired for past transgressions relating to substance abuse.
How to Talk to Your Employer About Rehab
If you are using the FMLA to protect yourself from being fired for going to rehab, you must notify your employer before taking leave. While this can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience, planning what you will say will take some of your anxieties away.
When talking to your employer about going to rehab, you should:
- Let your employer know how important your job is to you by reassuring them that you would like to keep your job and perform well in the future
- Explain to your boss that you have a medical condition that requires professional treatment
- Be upfront about your medical condition and be prepared to show verification from a doctor or psychiatrist
- Depending on your employer’s behavior, you might mention that you looked into the FMLA and ADA to ensure your plans were acceptable
- If you have not performed very well at work recently, inform your employer that you are looking forward to recovering and reaching your full potential when you come back to work
Lastly, some employers might be hesitant to let you take a full leave. If your job cannot be done in the case of your absence, you might consider attending an intensive outpatient addiction treatment program. These programs provide you with the treatment you need while allowing you the flexibility to work part-time.
The Bottom Line: Can My Employer Fire Me for Going to Rehab?
Yes and no.
Your employer can fire you for going to rehab if you do not follow the FMLA process. In other words, if you leave and enter treatment before notifying your boss, you can and probably will be fired.
However, if you ensure that you are covered under the FMLA or ADA and notify your boss that you will be taking a medical leave, you cannot be terminated from your job for going to rehab. You must cover all of your bases to make sure that you are not forgetting a step when it comes to using the Family and Medical Leave Act to prevent termination from your job.
Rehab for Professionals with Arise Treatment Center
Do you have a professional career and suffer from substance abuse? Is the fear of losing your job preventing you from receiving much-needed addiction recovery help?
If so, Arise Treatment Center can help. Our luxury rehab center for professionals will help you recover from your substance use disorder while understanding the importance of your career.
At Arise Treatment Center, we recognize that professionals have distinct needs when it comes to treatment and recovery. Our premier rehab program aims to provide professionals with the privacy, comfort, and individualized care they need to overcome their addiction.
For more information on our executive rehab program, contact Arise Treatment Center today.