Talking to Your Employer About Going to Rehab

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Addiction is adding up across America. 46% of Americans know a family member or close friend who has battled drug addiction. 

Many people with addiction do not seek rehab. They are worried about what others will think of them, including their boss. If you want comprehensive drug treatment, you have to start talking to your employer about going to rehab. 

What are your rights, and can you be fired for going to rehab? What sorts of treatment can you expect? How can you talk to your boss and make transitions in and out of rehab? 

Answer these questions and you can get treatment for any addiction you face. Here is your comprehensive guide.

Employee Rights

There are a few laws that affect how employees can get drug treatment. In order to talk to your boss about drug rehab, you should understand the various laws.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers public agencies and private-sector companies that employ more than 50 workers. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for rehab and related medical reasons. 

But not all workers can receive FMLA leave. A worker must have worked for their employer for 12 months or more. They must have completed 1,250 hours of service for their employer in the 12 months before they ask for leave. 

Yet the employer must restore the employee to their old job without stipulation. They must offer healthcare and other benefits as well. 

It is customary but not required for an employee to request leave 30 days in advance. They do not have to mention the FMLA or assert their rights explicitly when they are making a leave request. 

Laws protecting employees

The Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from firing or discriminating against workers due to their disabilities. The ADA regards addiction as a disability. This means that a worker cannot be fired if they seek medical treatment or have a previous addiction. 

The ADA also requires employers to make accommodations for employees with addictions. A worker may need to adjust their schedule so they can meet with case management professionals. The employer should talk to the employee about a schedule that will work for both of them. 

Yet the ADA does not protect workers whose addictions interfere with their work. Someone who comes in high or drunk can get fired. Someone who is currently using drugs does not receive full protection until they pursue treatment.

Types of Addictions

Addiction and the brain are closely linked. Drugs can trigger the brain’s reward circuit, hooking a person into using drugs. The parts of the brain that make a person anxious can activate when an individual is off drugs, encouraging them to use again. 

All addictions affect the brain similarly. Yet each has different effects on the body and mind and requires different treatment. Anyone who wants to pursue rehab should study addictions and figure out what treatment they need.

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Alcohol

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the nervous system. This means it can slow the lungs and heart function down. A person may find this calming, though alcohol can damage the brain and cause the nervous system to fail. 

Some people can drink one or two alcoholic beverages a night and not develop an addiction. The symptoms of alcohol addiction include dependence on alcohol in order to function. If someone needs alcohol to interact with others or overcome personal obstacles, they are developing an addiction. 

It can be dangerous to quit alcohol cold turkey. Alcohol withdrawal can cause severe anxiety, a fast heart rate, and vomiting. In rare cases, someone can hallucinate or suffer from seizures. 

Alcohol treatment starts with detoxication. A person will receive medications that wean them off of alcohol and allow them to begin treatment. They can then go through an inpatient facility for care.

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Marijuana

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug, meaning it changes a person’s perception and consciousness. A person gets high, which can feel initially pleasurable. But marijuana can damage numerous parts of the body, especially the respiratory system.

Marijuana can have some limited medicinal uses. Yet a person can become addicted to it after a few daily uses. Young people are at a high risk of becoming addicted due to how their brains are developing. 

Anyone can receive treatment for marijuana addiction. In addition to detoxication, a person may need to pursue SMART Recovery. They learn to empower themselves and resist the urge to use marijuana again.

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Opioids

The brain has opioid receptors that allow it to receive pain-killing chemicals. Opioids are drugs that act on these receptors so a person experiences less pain and emotional duress. 

Some opioids are useful in clinical settings. But any type of opioid can get abused and lead to a physical dependence on the drug. A person will feel extreme pain and discomfort if they don’t take their medication. 

Many treatments are available for opioid dependency. Most people receive opioid replacement therapy that swaps a harmful opioid with a less harmful substance. This weans them off of harmful opioids through time. 

Heroin, morphine, and codeine are examples of opioids. Treatment for them is similar to treatment for prescription opioids. Any use of heroin can cause an overdose, so anyone who is dependent on it should seek treatment. 

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Having a Conversation With Your Boss

No one should have a conversation with their boss until they know what their treatment options are. They should contact a treatment center and understand how long they will be away from work. They should also know about treatments they need after they leave an inpatient center. 

Once a person has a clear understanding of rehab, they can talk to their boss. They should begin the conversation by explaining how important their job is to them. They should affirm that they want to stay and maintain their performance. 

The person can then say they need treatment for a medical condition. They should be specific about how much time they need off from work. 

Some employers may ask what condition a person has. They should be honest. But an employee does not have to offer this information if they are not asked for it. 

A worker may need to provide a doctor’s note or official notification of their condition. They can submit this document in private or through email. 

A worker does not have to start talking about rehab. But it may be helpful to discuss what treatment they plan on receiving. A little transparency can convince an employer to offer their full support. 

talking to your employer

Transitioning Out of Work

Employees should not drop everything and go off to rehab. They should take the opportunity to make a smooth transition into treatment. 

They should try to fulfill all of their workplace responsibilities before they go. They should talk to clients, handle projects, and give presentations. If a project will continue to run after they leave, they should ask someone else to take over for them. 

They should tell other employees in the office that they are taking time off. They do not have to say where they are going or why they are leaving. 

Some companies have Employee Assistance Programs. These are programs that help people recovering from addiction fulfill their work responsibilities. After talking with their employer, an employee should talk to an HR official and see if a program is available.

Here are some of the largest employers in the United States with some specific information about their policies regarding employee addiction treatment:

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Costco Wholesale

Costco Wholesale Corporation is a multinational corporation that operates membership-only big-box retail stores. As of 2020, Costco was the fifth largest retailer in the world.  With over  275,000 employees worldwide, Costco is also one of the largest employers in the world.  

Costco provides health care coverage for full-time and part-time employees and company-sponsored retirement plans, based on years of service. The Costco Care Network offers a range of options for employees struggling with addiction.

However, Costco encourages employees with drug and alcohol problems to seek help from the Care Network before they become subject to discipline for violating Costco’s Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy.

Costco has pledged to support, assist, and accommodate those employees to the extent required by applicable law. Any employee of Costco may voluntarily access the Care Network for any work-related or drug and alcohol issue. The Care Network offers qualified, licensed, or certified providers experienced in psychology, social work, and counseling.
 

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Nordstrom

Nordstrom, Inc. is a luxury department store chain. Founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom.  It originated as a shoe store and evolved into a large retail department store.

Nordstrom employs over 62,000 employees in the United States, these employees can enroll for health insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance.  Nordstrom strictly prohibits using, being under the influence of, possessing, distributing, selling, or buying drugs or alcohol on company property or time.

While Nordstrom does not typically drug test employees at the time of their hire.  Testing positive for drugs will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.  Nordstrom’s policy states that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to lend confidential support and provide appropriate resources should employees need them. 

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Verizon Wireless

Verizon is a wireless network operator that is the largest wireless carrier in the United States, with 121.3 million subscribers as of the end of  2021.  Verizon has over 132,000 employees who are largely based in the United States.  Verizon has won awards for diversity and inclusion by creating initiatives to support LGBTQ, Veteran, Latino, and Women workers.

Verizon offers a variety of benefits to its employees.  Its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides professional assistance for child and eldercare services and adoption assistance. It can also help employees access mental health and substance abuse treatment, along with programs to help employees with financial challenges and stress management.

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Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is a multinational corporation that was founded in 1886.  It primarily develops medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods.  Johnson and Johnson are best known for their consumer brands including Band-Aids, Tylenol, and Listerine.  With over 134,000 employees, J&J is one of the largest employers in the United States.  

Like most large corporations, J&J has a strict Drug-Free policy, however they do also have a support system for employees who need help recovering from addiction.  Their policy states that “Individuals who have a substance abuse problem are encouraged … to seek help.  To assist in this regard, the Company will provide employees with a list of local community resources to contact for an assessment and treatment by substance abuse professionals.

Talking to Your Employer About Going to Rehab back to work

Going Back to Work

A person should focus on their treatment while they are at a rehab facility. They should not do anything for work, though they can receive phone calls from friends of theirs. 

Returning to work does not mean stopping treatment. Many rehab centers offer outpatient therapies. Someone does not reside in the center, but they can talk to psychiatrists and take medications. 

Someone may find it helpful to pick up where they left off. But they may also want a little oversight so they know how to handle stress without using drugs. Anyone concerned with stress should talk to their boss after returning to the office. 

Talking to Your Employer About Going to Rehab

You can start talking to your employer about going to rehab. The FMLA and ADA protect employees with addictions. A protected worker can seek 12 weeks of leave to go to rehab. 

Each addiction requires different treatments. You should do some research and determine what you need for yourself. 

You should then visit your boss and be honest about what is going on. Fulfill as many work responsibilities as possible and then go. You can return to work while receiving therapy. 

Help is in front of you. Sober Partners serves the Orange County, California area. Contact us today.