Struggling with a substance abuse disorder is challenging enough. You may be embarrassed, confused, and worry about whether you’re strong enough physically and mentally to take that big step and enter treatment. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you also stress over what taking time off for recovery will mean for your career, and if you will still have a job waiting for you when you return.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), over 70% of Americans struggling with a substance use disorder are employed. Because addiction impacts workplace environments, employers are supposed to encourage employees with addictions to get treatment. Discrimination against people who struggle with addiction is a violation of human rights and therefore, against the law. Stigmatizing attitudes can keep those with substance use disorders from seeking the help they need.
Because the government and your community support your decision to enter an addiction treatment center, laws exist to protect you against discrimination in the workplace. These laws also prevent you from being fired for going to rehab. In fact, two significant Federal Acts prohibit your employer from firing you when you return from rehab.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If you need to leave work to attend an addiction treatment center, the Family and Medical Leave Act will protect from losing your job, even if you have to go away for an extended period. The FMLA also provides qualifying employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year. While the leave is unpaid, the act ensures that health benefits are maintained during the leave.
Entering rehab would be classified as taking a medical leave due to a serious health condition that impacts their ability to perform the essential functions of their job. Under the FMLA, substance abuse may be defined as a serious health condition, and treatment must be provided by a healthcare provider
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The medical community considers alcoholism and addiction as diseases due to substance abuse’s chronic nature and how it affects the brain. The ADA not only encourages employers to ensure the workplace is free from the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, but it provides limited protection for recovering drug abusers and alcoholics. According to ADA, “an employer may not discriminate against a person who has a history of drug addiction but who is not currently using drugs and who has been rehabilitated.”
Those covered by the ADA or “qualified individuals” include those “who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs.” This means that if you are employed, currently seeking treatment, and no longer using, your employer may not discriminate against you.
The short answer to whether you can be fired from your job if you go to rehab is “no.” However, for these acts to protect you, you need to identify if your unique circumstances give you coverage. FMLA leaves, for example, are only valid if you request one from your employer before entering a treatment facility. To learn more about drug and alcohol treatment programs and your rights as an employee,The Right Way Recovery Services is here to guide you every step of the way. Give us a call at (619) 630-7844.