May 5, 2022

How to go to Rehab Without Losing Your Job [Guide]

Going to rehab is a big step in right direction. But how do you go to rehab without losing your job?


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on July 5, 2023

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Can You Go to Rehab Without Losing Your Job?

A large percentage of people with substance abuse disorders refuse to seek treatment because they are unable to leave work behind. While some worry about the smooth running of the company without them, some fear losing their job if they seek treatment. Here’s how you may be able to go to rehab without losing your job.
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What are my workplace rights as someone who is struggling with addiction?

Statistics show that Americans with a college degree belonging to the upper-income category are more likely to become a victim of alcoholism than other Americans.

Nonetheless, every person affected by substance abuse disorder must have access to rehabilitation.

There are federal laws and state laws that protect people who want to recover from substance abuse disorders and ensure that their career or job does not get affected by their medical condition.

If you are worried about losing your job because of rehab, you can take a sigh of relief because you have a right to work in recovery as a citizen of the United States.

Federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Fair Housing Act protect your right to work while recovering from a substance abuse disorder.

According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees of covered employers can get 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, such as substance abuse disorder.

However, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours over that period to be eligible for this federal protection.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from workplace discrimination at your current and future jobs during and after a supervised rehab program.

Once you enter rehab, the use of substances in the past is considered a disability that cannot be held against you at your job.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects you against discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of federal agencies, such as federal financial assistance, federal employment, and employment practices of federal contractors.

Your confidentiality is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The law gives you control over who can see your health information.

It’s important however to note: While you cannot be fired for going to rehab, your employer can still fire you for your current use of substances at work. Before you talk to your employer about entering rehab, you must refer to employee handbooks and other work documents to know about your company’s policies about substance abuse and rehabilitation.

In addition to federal laws, you may have additional rights under state law depending on the state of your residence. You can contact a local employment lawyer to know what protections you have under the state law. 

 What are my Addiction Treatment Options?

Once you understand your company’s policies about substance abuse, you can start exploring the options you have for rehabilitation. The first step is to contact your health insurance provider so they can help you understand what rehab programs and facilities are covered in your insurance plan.

After you select the rehab center, you will be given a range of options for treatment including executive rehab programs. In an executive rehab program, patients have access to computers, phones, and even private conference rooms where they can perform their professional duties.

Executive rehab programs are designed to offer a more flexible schedule for the patients. These programs also maintain the privacy of the patient. Patients may even be allowed to travel for work, depending on the severity of their condition.

You must decide what treatment to pursue before you approach your boss. Some people need full medical detox with to recover from a substance abuse disorder. If you opt for a full-time inpatient rehab program, you will need an FMLA-protected leave.

If your condition is not that severe, the rehab center may recommend an outpatient rehab or telehealth counseling. Outpatient programs are flexible and cause minimal interruptions to your work schedule. You may not need an FMLA-protected leave if you opt for a short, outpatient program.

How Do I Tell My Employer I Need to go to Rehab?

If you work for a large enterprise, you will most probably have to talk to your direct supervisor, the human resource department, or a senior manager. These roles belong to the same person in smaller companies.

Regardless of who you speak to first, the conversation you have with them must be honest and straightforward. You should make them understand that your recovery will positively impact your future work performance. You must be clear about the amount of time you need to get better.

Creating a coverage plan to show how you will help with the temporary transition of power will help reassure your employer that you are committed to your work and you will come back as a more productive contributor. Follow-up conversations may be required to make necessary accommodations, specifically if you are pursuing an inpatient program.

You may be required to complete extensive paperwork regarding an FMLA-protected, unpaid job leave. Your employer may also ask you to sign a return-to-work agreement that outlines what’s expected of your return.

Should I Tell My Co-workers or Employees?

Telling your colleagues may be one of the most difficult steps as you may fear being judged. However, being prepared for difficult questions may help to
ease your anxiety if and when that time comes.

While a candid conversation about your substance abuse disorder can help,
you are certainly not obligated to answer personal questions. Prudent
reservation is always an option. It may be appropriate to tell your colleague that you are simply not comfortable talking about it if they ask for details.

If you can find a level of trust and confidence, sometimes, people who are
open about their situation may find that their colleagues have been through the same thing. It’s also important to discuss work responsibilities and how things will be handled in your absence.

How do I Prepare Myself for Treatment?

Once you have filled out the paperwork at your job and the rehab center, you must organize your home. If you live alone and are pursuing an inpatient
program, you may need to create a to-do list that includes bill payments, pet sitting, yard care, forwarding email, etc. You can ask a friend or loved one to help you with the chores.

Next, you’ll have to do your packing according to the “what to bring” list given by the treatment facility you’re choosing. The substance abuse treatment program that you select will likely guide you closely through the admission process.

Making the decision to enter treatment can be a frightening step. There is no “perfect way” to handle all of the changes that you are encountering however the simple fact that you are bravely beginning this life-changing journey can be an empowering endeavor. Help is available to you or someone you know and freedom from addiction can be sought.

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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