While millions of people in the United States meet the criteria for substance use disorders, only a small percentage receive treatment. Several factors contribute to this gap, but many people don’t pursue treatment because they aren’t sure if they can take time away from their jobs. An employee assistance program, a benefit offered by many employers, can help you explore treatment options while staying at work. And in most cases, you’ll be able to remain employed while getting treatment for your addiction.
Your Rights During Addiction Treatment
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law in the United States, protects individuals with disabilities from workplace discrimination. Addiction is considered a disability since it affects your physical and mental functioning. The ADA ensures you can keep your employment during addiction treatment.
If you have a substance addiction, your employer can’t fire you for going to rehab. This applies whether you’re in rehab now or have sought treatment in the past. Employers also can’t refuse to hire or promote you because of your decision to seek treatment.
Employees in some workplaces qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which allows them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons. Typically you’ll need to have been at your workplace for at least a year before FMLA leave is granted. You can take time for your addiction treatment or help a family member or loved one going through treatment.
FMLA leave is job-protected, so you’ll return to your job after the leave ends. During FMLA leave, you’ll also be able to access any healthcare benefits you get through your job. If you take advantage of an employee assistance program, your records are kept confidential.
It’s important to remember that the ADA and FMLA don’t apply if you’re still using or abusing illegal or addictive substances. You can still be fired or denied employment because of your current substance use, and employers are still allowed to prohibit drugs or test employees for drugs.
The ADA protects people in recovery, which means you should no longer be using addictive substances, whether you’re in rehab. You’re much more likely to keep your employment during addiction treatment if you decide to pursue treatment early before substance use affects your performance on the job.
How Does Employment During Addiction Treatment Work?
Approaching your employer or human resources department to tell them about your plans to enter substance abuse treatment may seem intimidating. You can help the discussion go more smoothly by:
- Having a treatment plan in mind
- Having the conversation early, before your substance use interferes with your job
- Knowing approximately how much time you’ll need to take off work for treatment
- Knowing what information your health insurance plan needs to cover the cost of treatment if you’re insured
- Make a plan to fulfill any critical work responsibilities before you leave
You aren’t required to reveal details of your condition to your workplace, but you should let them know it’s an FMLA-protected condition.
According to the ADA, employers should provide “reasonable accommodation” to allow you to continue employment during addiction treatment, if possible. This may mean simply adjusting your work schedule or reducing your hours so you have time to attend meetings and therapy sessions. Many excellent rehab facilities offer treatment on an outpatient basis that works around clients’ schedules.
Some employers may ask you to complete a return-to-work agreement, where you commit to following treatment recommendations and remaining sober once you return to full-time employment. The employer, for their part, should make sure you return to the same position or an identical position when you come back to work.
Finding an Employee Assistance Program for Addiction
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are free employer-provided treatment options designed to be short-term, with referrals to longer-term treatment programs that promote sustained recovery. The details of your medical condition are kept confidential, and you’re typically able to schedule treatment around your work obligations.
Although employee assistance programs aren’t always advertised, many large and small employers offer them. So do many health insurance plans provided by employers.
Confidentiality and privacy are crucial aspects of these services. Employers can’t access EAP records or find out which employees are taking advantage of the program.
When you contact an EAP representative, they’ll complete a short evaluation to determine what help you need. Then they’ll refer you to specific treatment options. For substance abuse, EAP-covered options may include mental health counseling, medical assessments, and telehealth support. Most EAPs also has a 24-hour hotline you can call in a crisis.
Employee assistance programs are free since the employer picks up the cost of treatment. But they only cover short-term treatment—for instance, an EAP may offer three to five counseling sessions or a substance use disorder screening. After that, the EAP health care professionals can refer you to more long-term treatment options and rehab centers covered by your insurance. Think of EAPs as a starting point.
Explore Your Options at Greater Boston Addiction Centers
At Greater Boston Addiction Centers, we offer our employee assistance program so clients can maintain employment during addiction treatment. Our daytime and evening intensive outpatient programs provide flexibility and support for employed clients.
Recovery is some of the most important work you will ever do, and we want to work with you to make it possible. Find out more about our employee assistance programs at 877.920.6583.