Many people who contemplate getting help for their drug or alcohol addiction worry that their job won’t be there when they return to the workforce. Examples of how drug use impacts work include being late to work repeatedly, taking an inordinate number of sick days, acting combative with colleagues or producing subpar work. Unless you have completely concealed your addiction, chances are your supervisor has noticed these behaviors and may have even discussed them with you. You may have reached the decision that inpatient alcohol rehab is the best option for you, but don’t know what to tell your employer. You need to be honest about the length of your leave and the severity of your health condition, but you are under no obligation to disclose the nature of your condition. Before you leave, ensure all of your projects are completed and a plan is in place for colleagues to temporarily assume your responsibilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 does not prohibit employers from having a drug-free workplace policy, or provide any special protection to individuals who are currently using illegal drugs. A person with an alcohol use disorder may be deemed an “individual with a disability” under the ADA. The ADA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect people with drug or alcohol addictions as follows:
- Employers cannot fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote people simply because they have a history of substance use
- Employers cannot fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote employees merely because they are enrolled in a drug or alcohol rehab program
- Reasonable accommodations must be extended to substance abusers who have been rehabilitated or who are undergoing rehab (e.g. permitting time off for medical care, self-help programs, etc.)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA allows employees to keep their jobs during treatment for a specified medical condition for 12 unpaid work weeks in a 12-month period. Treatment for substance abuse may be a serious medical condition, if the parameters for inpatient care and/or continuing treatment are met. Absence due to the employee’s use of drugs or alcohol, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave.
Get Help Now
Did you know that not getting help or waiting until addiction has hampered your work performance can result in job loss? Your employer can discharge, discipline or deny you employment if alcohol or drugs negatively impact performance or compromise workplace safety. It’s important to seek help before addiction impedes your ability to perform on the job. When you return to work, you may realize the high-stress position was a trigger for your addiction. People who have successfully completed rehab frequently find jobs better suited to their personalities and life goals, including maintaining sobriety.