A lot of substance users are afraid to go to rehab because they’re afraid of what will happen inside the facility. As for some people, the reluctance to check in to treatment stems from their fear of losing their jobs.
There Are Laws That Will Protect You
Your employer can’t fire you just because you need to attend a month-long stint at rehab. This is because of the existence of 2 laws, namely:
1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA statute, which covers businesses with more than 15 employees, protects you from termination once you are inside rehab. Although your employer may hire a replacement while you are gone on rehab, you are guaranteed work of the same pay upon your return.
Under the ADA, your employer can’t fire you due to the circumstances of your addiction, i.e. missing work because of treatment. Your employment is also protected if you have stopped using drugs entirely.
The ADA also ensures your employment despite your past substance addiction. It also protects you from being paid a lower salary – or being denied promotion.
In essence, ADA helps protect the following individuals from termination:
- Have undergone/currently undergoing rehabilitation and are no longer abusing drugs
- People inaccurately labeled as drug users
If you believe that you are fired wrongly, you are entitled to file a charge of discrimination against the company.
2. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA applies to private businesses with more than 50 employees. This law sees to it that qualified employees are entitled to 12 weeks of medical leave – one that you may use for your addiction treatment.
Although this leave is often unpaid, your employer may give you paid leave depending on your circumstances.
While FMLA provides you with 3 months’ worth of leave, this cannot protect you from termination due to performance or conduct-associated reasons. It only gives you the time you need to straighten out your life in rehab.
3. Filing for Disability Benefits while on Leave
If you can’t get paid leave from your job, you may try to apply for disability benefits up until you get back to work. With this, you may get the finances that you need to fund your treatment – or support your family.
Applying for disability benefits, however, can be a long and arduous process since more than 11 million Americans need it. To get your pay-off, you need to fit the following conditions:
- You are unable to make the income limit of about $1,000 for the month
- Your disability is deemed to last more than a year
- Your condition has a severe impact on your employment
4. Telling Your Employer About Rehab
Now that you’re familiar with the laws that protect your job while in rehab, you can proceed with talking to your boss regarding your plan.
At this phase, it’s important to be as honest as possible. You need to come clean with your substance problem – and how it affects your job performance. This transparency may make your employer more compassionate about your plight – and request for some time off.
It will also help if you can supply a document (such as a medical certificate) that reinforces the need for treatment.
You can also try your company’s employee assistance program. With this, you can seek treatment for your condition through on-site, in-person, or phone-based services.
And while you may need to enter rehab at the soonest possible time, it’s always best to tie up loose ends before you go. If you can’t finish your ongoing projects, make sure to endorse them to your boss or co-worker.
Although addiction treatment is a confidential issue, it will help to tell your co-workers that you’re taking a leave of absence. You need not tell them the circumstances of you doing. Remember, your HR department will ensure your privacy as you take your leave.
Most insurance companies cover much of the cost of addiction treatment. However, you need to prove its necessity by fitting these criteria:
- You have a substance abuse condition that fits the DSM-V diagnosis
- You are a physical threat to yourself, as proven by some degree of instability
- You’re mentally fit to undergo rehab
- Your addiction has affected your personal life, social life, and educational/work performance
- You’re unable to maintain sobriety despite various interventions
- You live in a dysfunctional environment that is not conducive to recovery
- You are not responsive to a less-intensive level of care
- Your addiction will benefit from residential treatment
- You are capable enough to make changes in your drug-seeking behavior
In case you are deemed ineligible for rehab by your insurance, you can opt for treatment scholarships. You can also take financing options, which are available in most facilities.
Going Back to Work After Treatment
After you finish your stint at rehab, you need to make sure that you meet all the requirements of the return-to-work agreement (RTWA). This is drafted in the presence of the employee, employer, union representative, or addiction treatment professional.
An RTWA narrates all the company’s expectations once the employee resumes work after treatment. It usually contains the following stipulations:
- Abstinence from drugs, unless prescribed by a physician
- Periodic drug testing
- Compliance with company regulations
- Compliance with all the recommendations of an addiction professional
- Self-payment for the monitoring activities, in case it is not covered by insurance
- Permission of disciplinary action with violations not related to substance abuse or treatment
An RTWA is often given to workers who have failed to meet their job responsibilities due to their addiction problems. It is also provided to individuals who attempt to pursue treatment before getting fired.
Any discrimination that a worker experiences after returning to work is a ground for a discrimination suit.
If you have a pressing substance abuse problem, you may be able to enter rehab without losing your job. Under the ADA, your employment is protected as you undergo treatment. As for FMLA, it gives you the 3 months that you need to complete residential treatment.
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