Realizing that you need to go to inpatient drug or alcohol rehabilitation is a major step on your road to recovery. However, the decision to go to rehab can be difficult when you are worried about your job and whether your decision could result in being fired. Thankfully, you might be protected under two federal laws if you take time away from work to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation for addiction issues in some cases. Here’s how to go to rehab without losing your job from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Can You Get Fired for Going to Rehab?
If you need to go to rehab for an alcohol or drug addiction, your substance use disorder has likely already affected your ability to perform the tasks of your job. Your employer can fire you if your performance has faltered or if you are under the influence while working. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) do not protect individuals that are currently using illegal drugs. However, there are some ways to attend rehab without endangering your job.
Protection Under the FMLA
The FMLA protects eligible employees who need to take leaves of absence from work to address their serious medical conditions or the serious health conditions of their children, parents, or spouses. However, this law only applies to employers with 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of each other and also only applies to employees who have worked for the employers for at least one year and 1,250 hours during the preceding 12 months.
You can take leave to get help for alcohol or drug addiction, including to seek treatment for the addiction, or related physical illnesses, or to care for an immediate family member who needs treatment for a substance use disorder or a related medical condition. An employer can’t retaliate against an employee who takes leave under the FMLA for one of these purposes. FMLA leave is unpaid and job-protected. You can take up to 12 weeks of leave from work for a qualifying reason as long as you are eligible and work for a covered employer. Your employer must also maintain your employer-provided healthcare coverage during your leave of absence.
You must request leave before you go to treatment. Review your company’s policy and submit a request for leave at least 30 days before your treatment is scheduled or as soon as you can if it isn’t possible to provide 30 days’ notice. You won’t be protected if you don’t notify your employer and request leave by following the procedures.
Protection under the ADA
The ADA protects employees who have qualifying disabilities, including those who have sought addiction treatment. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against disabled employees by doing the following things:
- Refusing to promote or hire someone because they went to rehab in the past
- Firing someone because they attended rehab
- Riring, refusing to promote, or refusing to hire someone based on their history of addiction
The ADA does not protect you if you use substances on the job, fail a pre-employment drug test, or commit other similar violations of company policy.
Common Misconceptions About Attending Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation While Employed
An estimated 10.8 million full-time U.S. employees have substance use disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Unfortunately, many of these workers are afraid to seek treatment because of a fear of job loss.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) might provide some additional protections to workers seeking treatment beyond the FMLA and ADA. The Rehabilitation Act protects disabled applicants and employees when they work for or apply to federal programs or federal contractors. HIPAA protects the confidentiality of your medical records, including your treatment records while attending addiction rehabilitation.
Your employer can’t fire you simply based on the fact that your employer learned you went to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. For example, if you used up your paid time off to attend rehabilitation, you can’t be terminated if your employer learns that is what you did while you were away. Under the ADA, you can be fired for your current abuse of drugs and alcohol, but you can’t be fired because you already sought help for your substance addiction if you are no longer using drugs or alcohol.
How to Approach Attending Drug or Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment
If you are battling an addiction to alcohol or drugs, your work performance might have already been affected. People with substance use disorders typically have difficulty focusing at work and might call in sick more frequently. Your performance might have taken a hit. All of these issues could be reasons for your employer to terminate you even without your addiction to drugs or alcohol.
When you speak with your employer, be honest and open about your situation instead of attempting to hide your issues. Explain that you want to take proactive steps to get help and enter recovery. Your employer might have an employee assistance program to help you. If it does, take advantage of the program. If you do ask for a leave of absence to attend treatment, coordinate with your supervisor to ensure that the important functions of your job will be covered until you return to work. By being transparent, you are much likelier to keep your job instead of being fired. However, you will need to follow through with treatment and work on your recovery going forward.
Get Help From the Employment Lawyers at Swartz Swidler
Taking the plunge and seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addictions is difficult for most people. If you are suffering from a substance use disorder, you are not alone. Millions of people in the U.S. have similar struggles. Consult an experienced attorney at Swartz Swidler for help with protecting your job while you go to rehab by calling us at (856) 685-7420.