How to Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

How to Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

June 28th, 2018

People in need of addiction treatment have a multitude of concerns going in. Taking time off from a career for inpatient treatment is daunting: the fear of losing income and, in turn, losing the ability to support the household can make rehab seem out of reach. Some worry that their jobs won’t be there when they get back, further discouraging them from treatment. Thankfully, there are ways to keep a job and get the care needed to address an addiction, once and for all.

Legal Protection

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) refers to employment of those with disabilities in the workplace. The ADA was put in effect in 1992 to protect employees with disabilities from workplace discrimination. Because addiction is recognized as a legitimate medical condition, there are legal protections for those struggling with substance abuse disorder.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with established disabilities, including:

  • Extended leave-of-absence for inpatient medical treatment.
  • Scheduling working hours to accommodate outpatient treatment sessions.
  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established to provide twelve weeks of unpaid time off (without losing position) to take medical leave when an employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition. FMLA covers:
  • All public agencies.
  • Public and private schools.
  • Companies with fifty-plus employees.
  • Employees who have been with their companies for twelve months or more.

Some companies offer a supplemental program for disabled persons in need of treatment. Check your company handbook or discuss options with human resources for benefits available to you. An employer cannot terminate an employee for needing substance abuse treatment if the issue is disclosed. Relevant questions regarding your disability may be necessary, but answer as honestly as possible and keep a proactive outlook. And remember—handling your addiction will make you a better employee.

Can I Lose My Job If I Don’t Disclose My Addiction?

In some instances, substance abuse can lead to termination. If you have disclosed your disability to your employer and have been granted reasonable accommodation for treatment, it is your responsibility to follow through on your end. If your addiction is severely impacting your ability to perform basic duties, you may be terminated for poor work performance. Working under the influence of drugs or alcohol is grounds for immediate termination and is not covered under the ADA.

Disability Benefits

If you are leaving for treatment without pay, it may be possible to receive disability benefits to continue receiving income while you are in rehab. This process may be more complicated, but it is an option that may cushion your income while you receive treatment.

To explore this option:

  • Visit your healthcare provider for verification of your disability.
  • Consider legal counsel to assist you in requesting disability benefits.
  • Apply for short-term disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.
  • Collect and complete all documents necessary to prove your case.

Applying for disability can be an arduous task. Having a healthcare provider on your side can help this process by providing documentation of your addiction and a recommendation letter or form. Many PCPs are willing to cooperate if it means that their patients will seek help.

Outpatient Rehab Options

For some, addiction treatment can be utilized in an outpatient facility after initial inpatient detox (if needed). Therapy, counseling, and support from a treatment center can be provided while patients work and continue caring for their households. This option is ideal if the patient is low-risk for relapse, which can be determined by a medical professional. In the event of relapse, a longer stay in an inpatient facility may be necessary for long-lasting sobriety.

Work after Rehab

After returning from rehab, you’re not required to discuss your absence with coworkers. Your employer is bound to confidentiality regarding your medical condition and treatment. You may be required to come up with a plan for your return with a Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA). This agreement is usually a result of disciplinary action prior to treatment and allows employees to seek treatment in lieu of termination.

A RTWA may include:

  • Abstinence from substances.
  • Regular testing.
  • Following orders from physicians/treatment centers and/or regular meetings/appointments.
  • Progress updates from physicians.
  • Disciplinary actions for failure to comply with treatment plan.
  • An employee cannot be demoted or have wages/hours cut for taking time off for rehab. If all requirements are met for the RTWA, an employer must allow employees to return to their positions without discrimination.

Rehab Benefits Your Career

Addiction is all-consuming. If you spend time at work worrying about your addiction, you’re not working to your full potential. In general, having a clear mind allows you to focus on the task at hand and better positions you for advancement. Even if you are able to function as an employee, imagine how much better you could perform without the cloud of addiction hanging overhead. Rehab may seem like a step back if you need to take time off, but it is a huge leap forward in the long run.

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