Can I Keep My Job While I Recover from Addiction?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75% of people with substance abuse disorders have a job, but less than 10% ever get treatment for their illness.

How Worrying about Your Job Can Be a Barrier to Recovery

For many addicts and alcoholics, one of the biggest obstacles keeping them from seeking alcohol or drug rehab services is the worry of what happens to their job if they admit to their problem.

  • Job loss
  • Missing out on a promotion
  • Harming their reputation or “career path”
  • Being replaced or reassigned
  • Abandoning projects
  • Embarrassment when their coworkers find out

But while they delay, their addiction progresses, hurting their reputation and their career much worse than going to drug treatment ever could.

How Do I Go to Rehab AND Protect My Job?

When you are struggling with an active addiction, it is possible to get professional addiction help without negatively impacting your career, if you keep the following things in mind.

  • You Have Rights AND Responsibilities–Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are granted several protections when you suffer from an addictive Substance Abuse Disorder.

It is your RIGHT to seek treatment for your disease of addiction without fear that your position or job are at risk.

Your employer is federally-mandated to provide “reasonable accommodations” for any employee with certain recognized medical conditions – including SUDs.  Allowing you to check into drug rehab is a “reasonable accommodation”.

Also under federal law, all insurance companies must cover the cost of rehab drug and alcohol rehab.

  • Be Proactively Honest –Your employer has the obligation to protect its workers and the interests of the company. Therefore, your employer has the RIGHT to require that all employees refrain from illicit drug use, even on their own time.

It is YOUR responsibility to ask for help, BEFORE you fail a drug test or have an accident.

Avoid undue hardship for your company by open communication – If you need time off to go to drug rehab, your employer will need to temporarily replace you and get someone to take over your projects.

Don’t be worried about embarrassment – your employer probably already knew that something was affecting your performance, even if they didn’t know what that “something” was.

Your privacy will be respected – companies are required by law to treat your private request for time off to go to drug rehab as confidential.

  • Use Your Available Resources–There may be many programs offered by your employer:
    • Wellness/Employee Assistance programs
    • Sick Leave
    • Unused vacation time
    • The Family and Medical Leave Act—employees who qualify may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period.
  • Honor your Commitments —Your employer protects your position/job and makes accommodations for you for two reasons – because of the federal law AND because of you are a valuable employee. But you must do YOUR part:
    • Earnestly work your program of recovery
    • Use aftercare/support services
    • Go to 12-Step meetings
    • Comply with any required “Return-to-Work” agreement

Smart companies invest in their employee’s health and welfare, thereby protecting their most valuable assets. Smart employees appreciate that investment and realize their own worth. If you want to protect both your personal and professional futures, start your sober journey today.

Written By: Albert Fontenot