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Can You Get Fired For Going to Rehab?

Can You Get Fired For Going to Rehab

In the journey toward recovery, deciding to seek treatment for substance abuse is a courageous step. But for many people, this decision is clouded with concerns about job security. Even though they may desperately need help, the prospect of getting fired often deters individuals from pursuing treatment.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll answer the looming question, Can you get fired for going to rehab? We’ve compiled this guide to understanding the rights and protections employees have when it comes to seeking rehabilitation services–because the fear of losing your job shouldn’t stand in the way of getting the help you need.

Understanding Your Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a foundation of protection for employees dealing with substance abuse issues. Under the ADA, employers cannot discriminate against employees for having a history of substance abuse or for seeking treatment.

Keep in mind, the ADA doesn’t safeguard employees actively using illegal drugs. The key distinction is that the protection extends to those who are in recovery or are participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and are no longer using.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another critical piece of legislation that offers protection. Eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specific family and medical reasons, which can include seeking treatment for substance abuse. The FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

When Can You Be Fired for Going to Rehab?

Stressful young man talking about addictive drugs

While there are protections in place, there are circumstances under which an employee can be legally terminated even if they are seeking treatment. If substance abuse interferes with your ability to perform your job duties effectively, employers may have grounds for dismissal. Additionally, if after returning from rehab, the employee’s performance fails to meet the employer’s standards, or if they relapse and use substances while at work, termination could be a possibility.

Best Practices for Seeking Rehab

Following these three best practices can help you avoid the stress of wondering, Can a job fire you for going to rehab?

Communicate Effectively

If you decide to seek treatment, it’s essential to communicate with your employer openly and honestly, while also respecting your right to privacy. You don’t need to disclose the specifics of your condition, but informing your HR department about your need for time off under the FMLA or another leave policy is a good practice.

Know Your Employer’s Policy

Familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies on drug use and rehabilitation. Some companies have programs that encourage seeking help and may even offer support services as part of their employee benefits package.

Seek Legal Advice

If you’re unsure about your rights or how to approach your employer, consulting with a legal expert who specializes in employment law can provide clarity and confidence. They can offer guidance tailored to your specific situation and help you navigate any potential challenges.

Can I Work While in Rehab?

rehabilitation facilities

Working while in rehab is a possibility, depending on the type of treatment program you choose and your employer’s flexibility. Many rehabilitation facilities offer outpatient programs that are designed to accommodate your work schedule, allowing you to receive treatment while continuing to fulfill your job responsibilities. These programs typically involve attending therapy sessions during the evenings or weekends. In fact, some facilities offer specialized programs for rehab for CEOs.

Many rehab programs, though, require significant time participating in programs and therapy sessions. These often take place during typical working hours. Some programs, like SCRC’s multi-phase program, may begin with a high time commitment that lessens over the course of the program. Check out our Recovery Timeline for more information.

It’s essential to communicate with your employer about your treatment plan and explore any adjustments to your work schedule or responsibilities that might be necessary. Employers may be willing to offer flexible working arrangements, like part-time hours or remote work, to support your recovery journey while maintaining your professional commitments.

Returning to Work After Rehab

During the transition back to work after rehab, communicate clearly with your employer about your needs and any adjustments that might support your recovery. Consider discussing a phased return, where you gradually increase your hours or workload, allowing you to adapt more comfortably to the work environment. This approach can help manage stress and maintain a healthy balance between work commitments and ongoing recovery efforts. It’s also beneficial to identify a support system within the workplace, like a trusted colleague or HR representative, who can provide encouragement and understanding as you navigate this phase of your journey.

What if I need ongoing treatment or accommodations after returning to work?

You can request reasonable accommodations under the ADA, such as a modified work schedule to attend therapy sessions. Your employer is required to work with you to accommodate your needs, as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship on the operation of the business.

Navigating Future Employment After Rehab

When moving forward with your career after rehab, it’s important to approach future employment opportunities with confidence and discretion. While you’re not required to disclose your history of substance abuse or treatment to potential employers, it can be helpful to be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment in a positive light. Focus on your recovery journey as a period of personal growth and how it has prepared you to be a more resilient and dedicated employee. 

Remember, your health and recovery journey is personal, and sharing it with future employers is entirely your choice. Employers are generally more interested in your qualifications and ability to perform the job than your medical history.

Exploring Alternatives: Outpatient Rehab

For those concerned about the impact of rehab on their employment, outpatient rehab presents a flexible alternative. Outpatient programs often offer flexibility and can be tailored to fit around your job commitments, making them an excellent option for those who cannot take extended leave from work. This outpatient rehab model supports maintaining a normal daily routine, which can be beneficial for some individuals’ recovery process, while still providing the essential tools and support needed for overcoming substance abuse.

So, Can You Get Fired for Going to Rehab?

In most cases, no. The ADA and FMLA offer significant safeguards for employees seeking help for substance abuse, ensuring that the path to recovery does not have to cost you your livelihood. By communicating effectively with your employer and knowing your rights, you can take this important step toward wellness with peace of mind.

It’s crucial to remember that recovery is a journey, and taking the step to seek help is a major sign of strength. Employers, for the most part, recognize the value of supporting their employees through such challenges, understanding that the long-term benefits of rehabilitation—both for the individual and the workplace—far outweigh the short-term adjustments required during treatment.

Ready to find freedom from addiction?