You’ve taken the first step and admitted you need help for your addiction. Now, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the implications for your personal life. Your addiction has most likely affected every aspect of your life, including your job. You may want to keep your need for rehab private because of the stigma attached to addiction. You might even be worried that you’ll lose your job if you tell your boss. Is there any way to get around telling your boss about your need for rehab?
Studies show that people who seek help for a substance use disorder have a much better chance of keeping their job than people who don’t. They’re also more likely to receive promotions. But you may want to avoid letting your boss know about your problem. It is possible to avoid telling your boss about the need for rehab, but you should also be aware that there are federal protections in place to keep you from being fired.
Your Options for Talking to Your Boss
If you’re truly uncomfortable telling your boss that you need to go to rehab, you don’t have to. You can use any accrued vacation time or ask for a leave of absence. You won’t have to explain the reasoning behind it. If your worry is about your reputation, you might give your boss the information alone and then travel out of town for your treatment.
If you don’t have accrued vacation time, or your employer will fire you for a leave of absence, you’ll need to protect your job through FMLA eligibility. Unfortunately, this will involve telling your boss about the need for rehab. However, you’ll also be protected from being fired.
What Is FMLA?
FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act, a federal act that provides protection for employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to a family or medical emergency. Addiction and the need for rehab qualifies under FMLA.
This means that you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within one calendar year to complete your rehab program. You qualify for FMLA benefits if:
- You have been employed for at least 12 months with the company
- Before the start of the leave, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months
- Your employer must employ at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite
FMLA covers a number of different circumstances. The relevant one is that it allows employees to take care of qualifying serious health conditions they have, and addiction is one of the qualifying conditions.
Telling Your Boss You Need FMLA Leave
You need to give your boss notice about your FMLA leave at least 30 days before you leave for rehab. You will be required to disclose the fact that you have an addiction and are going to rehab. If you don’t disclose the medical issue, your boss can choose to decline your request for coverage.
Your boss will have five business days to respond to the request. You legally cannot be fired for requesting FMLA leave. Your boss must make arrangements or allow you to make arrangements for your job to be done while you’re gone. If your boss fires you for disclosing that you have an addiction, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. It’s best to contact an employment lawyer in these cases.
Company Policies on Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Before you talk to your boss, you should review your company’s policies regarding alcohol and drug abuse. Some company policies will indicate that an employee can face disciplinary action if their alcohol or drug abuse interferes with their work. This can include firing.
It’s important to keep in mind that your boss may already know you have a substance use disorder, especially if it has impacted your work. If you need to take FMLA leave, you should be forthright when disclosing information to them. Explain that you’re going to rehab because you want to get control over your life and do the job as well as you can.
You might not want to mention if you’ve used drugs or alcohol while in the workplace, or been high during work, particularly if the company policies prohibit it.
Alternative Treatment Options
If you don’t have accrued vacation time, don’t qualify for FMLA leave, or really don’t want to tell your boss about your addiction, you could consider alternative treatment options where you wouldn’t have to take time off work. Inpatient rehab is the best option, but studies show that some treatment is always better than no treatment.
One option is an intensive outpatient program, or IOP. These can often be attended on the weekend to work around business hours. They usually involve six to eight hours of therapy each day, but you sleep in your own home.
Detox should also be a concern. If you can, it’s important to undergo a medical detox at a certified detox facility. The medical professionals can provide counseling and medication to help you through the withdrawal process. Most detox programs last 1 or 2 weeks, so you’re more likely to have accrued vacation or sick time to cover them.
If you truly can’t take any time off work, you may be able to detox at home. This isn’t recommended for people whose substance use disorders might present with dangerous withdrawal symptoms. When this is the case, you should at the very least make sure a trusted loved one is with you. Detox professionals can prescribe medications like Suboxone to help with opioid dependence from home. This is a more accessible method of detox for people who can’t take time off work.
You can also attend 12-step programs and support groups. These help by putting you in touch with other people in recovery and helping you develop healthy coping mechanisms.
For more information about your options, you can call one of our trained counselors at 866-802-6848.