If you are asking this question, you are not alone. Many people worry about how going to rehabilitation can affect their employment status, but the reality is that it should have little to no effect on your career. Still, some employers discriminate against their employees who seek treatment and may even terminate them. If this happens to you, there are laws to protect you from discrimination based on your addiction or alcohol use disorder, and you should find out more about these legal protections as soon as possible.
Know Your Rights
If you are going to rehab, you are probably worried about what your boss will think. And there is no doubt that it is a sensitive subject—but do not worry! The law is on your side.
In most states, it’s illegal for employers to fire employees because they have gone to rehab. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been convicted of a crime or are required by law to go to rehab.
But what if your boss doesn’t care? Or what if they don’t know about these laws? What should you do then?
If your employer fires you because they found out that you went to rehab, this is called “employment discrimination.” You may be able to sue them and collect money for damages like lost wages and emotional distress.
Employees must know the rights, laws, and protections for going to rehab to avoid falling victim to employment discrimination.
Rehabilitation and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed into law in 1993. The FMLA requires employers who have fewer than 50 full-time employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for each year of employment. These are the reasons why FMLA can be used:
- Bodily injury due to active duty in the military
- Caring for immediate family members with serious health conditions
- Serious health conditions requiring surgery or hospitalization (including chronic issues such as cancer treatment) and 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend rehabilitation.
Employers are not required to pay their employees while they are on FMLA leave, but they do have some responsibilities when it comes to handling an employee’s absence from work due to taking FMLA leave. For example, employers must track how much time employees spend out on leave while using their allotted amount of FMLA leave days each year (so long as those days don’t exceed 12 weeks total).
If an employee wants additional time off after that point, their employer may ask them why they need additional time off to determine whether or not granting approval would cause undue hardship for the business.
FMLA does not protect all employees. To qualify, you must have worked in your job for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year. You also need to be employed by a company that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace (or the equivalent of 50 workers if your workplace is less than 75 miles from the nearest location where other employees work).
Your employer’s size is determined by how many people it employs—not how many people are employed by its parent company or affiliates.
Rehabilitation and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people who are ill or have disabilities from being discriminated against in their employment. For example, if you had cancer and were taking chemotherapy treatments that made you unable to work for some time, your employer would be legally obligated to accommodate that disability by allowing you to take time off from work without losing your job.
The ADA also protects people from being discriminated against when they need time off for treatment for substance abuse problems. If an employer refuses to accommodate such an absence, they may face legal action under the ADA.
However, there are certain limitations on what type of treatment is considered reasonable under the ADA. For example, if someone went to rehab for drug addiction but did not recover and continued abusing drugs after returning to work, their employer would not be required to treat them differently because they failed at rehab.
The Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act is a law that protects federal employees from discrimination and unfair treatment based on disabilities, including mental illness.
It applies to all federal employees and job applicants, as well as those who have been offered or are under consideration for federal employment. It also applies to contractors who provide services to the government under contract.
This means that if you are a federal employee who has gone through rehabilitation for addiction or other mental health issues, you may be protected against discrimination.
The Rehabilitation Act says that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against someone with a disability. This includes people with substance use disorders and other mental health conditions. The law does not provide protections for all forms of discrimination in every situation.
It only protects against discrimination that is based on actual or perceived disabilities. This means that if someone discriminates against you because they think your disability makes you less capable or less trustworthy than other people, then they have broken this law.
Getting the Help You Need
While being an employee with a drug or alcohol addiction may be problematic from an employer’s perspective, it is not grounds for immediate termination. As a best practice, companies should consider offering an individual entering rehab a specific amount of leave time. This can help address the needs of both the employer and employee in terms of meeting their respective short-term needs (i.e., the rehab program for the employee).
Ultimately, any decision to go to rehab or not is a complicated one. It depends on the nature of your employment, the extent of your addiction, and what you’re looking for from rehab itself. But whatever the case, remember that you deserve compassion, treatment, and respect.
If you need help understanding your options and determining where to go from here, Everlast Recovery Center can help. We will help you get the right treatment plan and offer the support you need in your recovery process. Contact us today to learn more about rehab for full-time employees and the available options.