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Keeping Your Job While in Alcohol or Drug Rehab

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75% of people with a Substances Use Disorder have a job. However, over 90% of workers with a SUD aren’t getting the specialized care they need.

One of the most-voiced reasons for putting off getting professional help is “I’ll lose my job if I go to rehab!”.

With every delay, their addiction gets worse. So do the consequences—to their professional and personal life, their health, and their future.

If that’s why you’ve avoiding seeking drug treatment, understand this – your disease will hurt your career more than checking into rehab ever will.

The Best Time to Get Help Is Always NOW

Companies have the right—and the obligation—to protect their interests, employees, and customers, so if you are high or drunk on company property or time, you can be fired.

To prevent that from happening, you must address the problem NOW, instead of when it is too late.

Tip #1 – Your Company May Be Able to Help

Most businesses of any size have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place for these kinds of situations. You can get confidential – and often free – guidance and help for most personal wellness issues. Talk to your EAP contact to get more information.

Tip #2 –Know Your Legal Rights

If you have insurance through your employer, the Affordable Health Care Act mandates that substance abuse treatment is covered.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers make “reasonable accommodations” for those employees participate in a rehabilitation program and are no longer abusing substances.

Don’t wait until you’ve failed a drug test, shown up at work drunk or high, or been involved in an at-work accident or incident.  ADA protection doesn’t cover those situations

Failing a drug test can be grounds for justifiable termination even if the drug is legal. This includes alcohol, marijuana, and even prescription medications, if they are misused

For qualifying employees, the Family Medical Leave Act permits up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for substance abuse treatment within a 12-month period. During this period, your job and your position are protected.

Tip #3– Be Honest with Your Job

Your employer needs to know how your recovery needs will impact your attendance and performance. If they are going to have to make accommodations, adjustments, or temporarily replace you, give them as much notice as possible.

Don’t be embarrassed. More than likely, your supervisor already knew that SOMETHING was wrong, even if they didn’t know what that “something” was.

By federal law, your employer must treat your participation in a rehab program as strictly confidential.

Tip #4 – Outpatient Drug Rehab Might Be Right for You

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) offer the same education, behavioral counseling, and support services at its residential programs, but allow you to continue to work and live at home.

Typically, IOP attendees go to therapy 3-5 times each week, with each session lasting 3 hours. IOPs are very accommodating, offering both morning and evening sessions.  With this option, your employer only needs to slightly adjust your work schedule.

Tip #5 – Communicate with Your Employer

If your rehab needs – inpatient or IOP – means someone else will temporarily have to assist or replace you, be sure to communicate with your job. If you choose to participate in an IOP, keep your work commitments.

Tip #6 – Return-To-Work Agreement

The U.S. Department of Labor gives employers the right to create a written document detailing the agreement between the employer and an employee who has completed substance abuse treatment. This agreement is legally-binding and may include such requirements as:

  • The returning employee must remain compliant with medical recommendations.
  • Employers have the right to drug test.
  • Release of Information forms are provided to service providers, allowing them to release attendance and progress updates to the employer.

Here’s the bottom line – healthy workers are productive workers. It is in your company’s best interests to help you to get the treatment you need. But it’s up to YOU to take advantage of all available resources.

Since 1978, Chapman House Treatment Centers has been providing drug rehab services in Orange County, and helping struggling addicts and alcoholics return to sober, happy, and productive lives.


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