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How to Tell Your Employer You’re Going to Rehab

In your mind, you’ve made one of the most significant decisions in your life – going to rehab. However, in the real world, you still have to figure out how to tell your employer you’re going to rehab. Having this conversation with an employer may be a challenging task that most people aren’t prepared for. But, before you go and have that conversation, we wanted to help you get ready.  Getting ready to commit to substance abuse treatment is a life-changing moment. But, before making the jump, making sure your financials are in order, your insurance checks out, and that you understand your legal protections at work is key to having a plan for when you get out of rehab. 

First Of, Determine If You Should Tell Your Boss

Before anything, let us congratulate you for taking the right steps into seeking treatment. As you start to think about how to tell your boss you’re going to rehab. You must understand that you’re not alone. Almost 76% of people with a substance use disorder are employed. These are what we know as high-functioning addicts.  As you’re considering having this conversation with your employer, take some time to do some research. Look at your company’s drug and alcohol policy in the work environment. If they don’t have one, then look at what their healthcare policy is for sick employees. Lying about your health isn’t the best way to go around this situation, so the more you know, the better. 

Tips for Telling Your Employer You’re Going to Rehab

Know that you have information about your employee rights; you really need to take time to prepare for this conversation. Here are some tips to help you relax before speaking to your employer about your addictions:

  • Be prepared: Do as much research about your rights, the company’s policies, and your treatment program as possible. The more information you can provide your employer, the better the chances they’ll be supportive and understanding. 
  • Be honest: Don’t try to hide your substance use disorder under the pretext of another illness. It’s likely your boss already suspects something is happening, most likely due to diminishing performance on the job.
  • Don’t be afraid: Odds are your substance use disorder has already impacted your work performance somehow. You know that treatment will help you learn new skills and coping mechanisms to improve your life and work performance. 
  • Offer to help: Help your boss and your detriment prepare for your absence. Come up with a potential solution for your time in rehab, including devising a plan for covering your responsibilities while you’re gone. 
  • Don’t feel obliged: If, after doing all your research and prepping, you decide telling your employer is not worth the risk, ask for a leave of absence instead. Check on your vacation time, think about other options you might have to take the time you need. 

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Can I Be Fired for Going to Rehab?

Believe it or not, odds are you won’t get fired for going to rehab. If anything, the workplace is one of the very few places that enables individuals to start healing from addiction. Many employees are unaware of the legal protections afforded to them and the many mental health resources at their disposal.  However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired for your addiction. In the end, the employer does retain the right to terminate your employment in certain situations. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act

One protection you should get familiar with is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This provides employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave because of a severe health condition or to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a severe health condition.  To qualify, you must:

  • Work for your employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
  • Work at a location where the company has at least 50 employees within 75 miles, or if it’s a public agency, elementary, or secondary school.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Job Protection

Another protection option is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from refusing to hire, fire, or discriminate against qualified potential employees based on a disability. This law also protects workers from drug or alcohol abuse treatment and indeed qualifies substance use disorder as a disability.  Current drug use is not protected, and current alcohol drinkers are not covered if their substance use directly impacts their work. Think about coming to work high or drunk, becoming a threat to other employees, or other factors that may make you lose protection.  However, for someone who has gone through rehab or is currently enrolled in addiction treatment, they’re likely to be protected. Obviously, as with any law, there are many intricacies involved, which is why you should speak with a professional advisor about this. 

Employee Assistance Programs

Finally, most medium-to-large-sized employers offer employee assistance programs (EAP) through their health insurance. Inquiring about this program within your company can be an excellent resource that can help you prepare for talking to your boss about going to rehab. Usually, these programs are run and administered by the human resources department.  The best part of EAPs is that they can offer you guidance regarding how to use your insurance to pay for rehab, discuss your absence, and even refer you to the right treatment plan. All of this happens in closed-door conversations with the HR manager and must remain confidential. If you believe your direct boss won’t understand your situation, discussing these programs with your HR manager might be the best route. 

Other Protections

Beyond these laws, other federal protections can help you discuss this difficult subject at work:

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973: This added discrimination protections in the ADA to federal agencies, federal financial assistance, federal employees, and federal contractors.
  • Fair Housing Act: This requires housing facilities to offer equal opportunities for those with disabilities and prohibits housing discrimination against people with a disability. 
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This protects patient confidentiality and ensures the patient has complete control over who can see their health information. 

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Preparing for Treatment

Once you’ve done all your homework and you’re ready to discuss it with your employer, it might be helpful to come up with a plan to prepare for treatment. The more prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to answer any questions about treatment, timelines, next steps, and more.  If needed, ask your treatment facility to see if they can have a therapist over the phone or in-person to talk to your employer about the process. As you may guess, your employer may have many misconceptions about rehabilitation that you might not be able to explain correctly. Having someone who can walk them through the process might be more accessible.  Keep in mind; not all rehab programs will make you lose work time entirely. For example, you might enter detox and a short-term residential program to kickstart your recovery journey. However, to help you continue your recovery without losing your job, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) might be the right choice. These types of programs allow you to fulfill obligations like work or school while attending rehab simultaneously. Of course, you’ll have to discuss this with an addiction specialist to ensure it’s the right program for your needs. 

Going Back to Work After Rehab

A great option is to consider signing a return-to-work agreement, which might help you secure your job after returning to work. These agreements are subject to your unique needs and case, but it usually includes:

  • Agreement to comply with all treatment recommendations your rehab provider suggests.
  • Provide regular progress reports during rehab to your employer. 
  • Commit to attending a 12-step program or support group after treatment as continuum care.
  • Agreement to submitting to alcohol and drug tests periodically.
  • Acknowledging that you may still lose your job for poor work performance or other reasons following treatment. 

You also have to spend a fair amount of time preparing your personal life. Whether you live alone or with family, organizing your personal life for rehab is paramount. Some things you should consider include:

  • Forward your mail to the right address.
  • Arrange house or pet sitting.
  • Set up automatic bill payments.
  • Remove any drug or alcohol paraphernalia and substances so they’re not there when you return from rehab. 

How to Find Help

As you can see, a lot of planning goes into checking into rehab – it isn’t as simple as walking through the door. But, we can help you every step of the way. From answering your questions to helping you figure out how to tell your employer you’re going to rehab. We can help you understand insurance coverage, out-of-pocket expenses, and finding the rehab program that best suits your needs.  If you’re ready to start this process, call us today at 866-308-2090 to speak with one of our addiction specialists and start your recovery journey now. 

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