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How to Tell Your Employer About Your Addiction

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talking to your employer about addiction

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 76 percent of individuals struggling with substance abuse problems are employed. Afraid of losing their jobs, many of these people avoid seeking the addiction rehab they need.

We understand that telling your employer about your addiction is difficult. That’s why we would like to share our suggestions for how to tell your boss about your problem with drugs or alcohol.

Before the Conversation

Know the Company Policy

Many businesses have a policy regarding drugs and alcohol. This policy should be outlined in your employee manual or handbook. If you don’t have a handbook, your human resources department should be able to provide you with one. Before you talk to your employer about a substance abuse problem, make sure you understand the ramifications. Every company is different, so don’t assume that your employer handles addiction the same way as any other company.

Know Your Rights

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , you may have rights that could protect you from discrimination based on a chemical dependency. But, there are caveats you need to know about. For example, the ADA does not protect you if you are currently using illegal drugs. And, while alcoholics are covered by the ADA, employers can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct.

The ADA is complex, so don’t assume that it necessarily applies to you and your specific situation. If you believe you were unfairly terminated because of your addiction, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be able to help.

During the Conversation

Be Honest & Direct

Immediately after officially entering a long-term treatment program, you will need to tell your boss what is going on. Based on your company’s policy, you may need to speak with human resources, a department manager or your immediate supervisor. Make sure to follow the established protocol.

Remember, the ADA mandates that employers make considerations for people entering rehab – only if they are not currently using illegal drugs. Considerations can include rearranging your schedule to allow for support group meetings or allowing for an extended leave of absence while you attend an inpatient recovery program.

There is a strong possibility that your employer has already noticed signs of your addiction. Maybe you’ve taken more sick days than normal or you’re showing physical signs that something is not right. Whatever the case, you’re probably not hiding your addiction as well as you think, so there’s no point in sugar-coating the truth.

Family Medical Leave Act

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you may qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. During this time, your group health benefits are required to be upheld.

The FMLA applies to all local, state and federal employers. It also applies to private companies with at least 50 employees. Refer to the FMLA section of the Department of Labor website to determine whether you are eligible. Basic requirements will include the following:

• Before you can qualify for FMLA leave, a referral from a health care provider is required.

• You must be seeking help from an inpatient rehab center that requires you to stay overnight.

• Your addiction must leave you unable to perform your normal work-related tasks or responsibilities.

You can’t be fired for taking a leave of absence under the FMLA act. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be fired for substance abuse. As long as your employer has a clearly-stated policy and it was made available to everyone, you could be legally terminated for using drugs or alcohol.

Your Health is More Important than Your Job

We know it may seem like your job is everything, but prolonging treatment for addiction won’t get you anywhere. If you’re reading this and you’re ready to get help, call The Raleigh House today. We can help you beat addiction and find your own path to lifelong recovery. Learn more about our 90-day inpatient addiction rehab program, or call us now.

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