For those who are struggling with substance abuse while gainfully employed, the possibility of losing their job after revealing to their employer that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol could deter them from getting the help they need. Also, many of these same individuals may be concerned about their privacy and also worry about how they will be perceived by friends and colleagues if their struggles with drugs or alcohol were to become public knowledge. If you share either of these concerns, you will be happy to know that federal laws have been enacted to safeguard not only your privacy but also your job. In this article, we will be taking a closer look specifically at FMLA (Family and Medical Leave of Absence Act) and how it can benefit those who are still employed and ready to end their relationship with drugs or alcohol.
HOW FMLA CAN PROTECT YOUR JOB WHILE YOU SEEK TREATMENT
If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol while still employed, you’re not alone; according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), more than 76 percent of individuals struggling with addiction are employed either full-time or part-time. Once you have made up your mind to overcome your addiction, the possibility of losing your job can make it difficult to focus on your recovery. FMLA, which is a federal law that protects an employees’ job for up to 12 weeks for a 12 month period during leaves of absence for medical reasons, can offer you some peace of mind as you work towards ending your relationship with drugs or alcohol. However, there is a caveat in that employees will be required to receive a referral for treatment from a licensed physician for the leave of absence to be protected under FMLA.
HOW TO REQUEST A LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM YOUR EMPLOYER
Having established the fact that you do have legal rights under the Family and Medical Leave of Absence Act, let’s take a moment to discuss disclosing your addiction to your employer. For individuals who are struggling with addiction, the most challenging aspect of seeking treatment while still employed is disclosing their addiction to an employer. Of course, this is further complicated by the stigma commonly associated with addiction and the debate regarding whether or not addiction is, in fact, a disease. However, it is critical that you discuss your desire to seek treatment with your employer as it will allow them to make arrangements to provide you with the time off that you need.
Because addiction meets the criteria for a serious health condition under FMLA, your employer is required to keep your health information confidential including the nature of your addiction and the treatments that you will invariably have to undergo. In addition to being granted the time off that you need, there are several benefits in disclosing your addiction to your employer. For example, your struggles with drugs or alcohol can impede your ability to meet performance standards at work, which, in turn, could lead to being terminated. Also, depending on your relationship with your employer, they may be willing to play an active role in your recovery by offering moral support as you embark on your journey towards achieving sobriety.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TALKING TO YOUR EMPLOYER
Assuming you have decided to disclose your addiction to your employer, it is important that you take some time to familiarize yourself with your company’s drug and alcohol policy. Also, you should review the Family and Medical Leave of Absence Act to ensure that your employment status meets the minimum requirements for a leave of absence. By taking these steps, it demonstrates to your employer that you are serious about getting help and also remaining with the company. Lastly, it is a good idea to look inward and make sure that you are ready, willing, and committed to overcoming your addiction and bettering your life.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU HAVE COMPLETED TREATMENT?
After completing your rehab program and ready to return back to work, your employer may ask that you sign a Return-to-Work agreement, which may require that you undergo regular drug screens as a contingency for continued employment with the company. In addition, your employer may also require that you complete any follow-up care included in your treatment program like counseling therapy, for example. These policies are not designed to be discriminatory; moreover, they are intended to protect the company’s best interest and also to help you improve your chances of achieving long-term recovery success. If you’re struggling with addiction and have questions regarding treatment options or FMLA, you’re encouraged to contact one of our friendly and compassionate representatives today at 866-698-0823.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.