Anyone who struggles with alcoholism is well aware of the adverse effects the addiction has on a person’s everyday activities and their life in general. Included in essential daily activities is one’s job; source of income and, most likely, well-being.The stress of losing one’s job is enough in itself to keep someone from seeking the treatment they desperately need. However, alcoholism is a highly serious issue for a person to face and often requires professional treatment to overcome it. Because of this, it is necessary to become informed about the realities of what it looks like to be absent from a job for extended periods of time while a person seeks professional rehabilitation for alcoholism as well as the stigmatism of it.
There are several things to examine when exploring this subject; the first of which is the most fundamental question that enters into someone’s mind before leaving a job to go to alcohol rehab:
Will I get fired for being away from work for an extended period of time?
The answer, in short, is no. There are several systems in place to ensure your job security during rehab.
Will I get fired from work during rehab?
No. There are laws that ensure the job security of an employee who is undergoing treatment for alcoholism, including the Federal Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Employee Assistance Policies. These acts require employers to make adjustments to accommodate the needs of employees who have medical conditions.
The Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Federal Medical Leave Act protects an employee from being terminated from work during the period of medical treatment for serious conditions, including alcoholism. Employees who are eligible are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical treatment within a 12-month period. Inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehabilitation also counts as a medical treatment.
The FMLA prevents an employer from terminating an employee for the absences required for the employee to seek treatment for alcoholism. Although being away from work for extended periods of time could potentially be problematic for your employer, they are not be allowed to fire you under the Federal Medical Leave Act. Eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to attend to medical needs; in this case, seeking treatment for alcoholism. However, if the length of treatment exceeds the 12 week period, the additional leave is a matter of discussion.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA requires that the employers make changes in the way things are typically done to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities. If you can demonstrate that your alcoholism prevents you from performing tasks that are necessary to your employment with your company, the ADA can be enacted, and reasonable accommodation is required of your employer. In the case of alcoholism, “reasonable accommodation” would include allowing you to take extended time off, and ensuring that you maintain job security during alcohol rehab.
Employee Assistance Policies (EAPs)
A final resource for ensuring job security during alcohol rehab is your company’s employee assistance policies. This is up to you to research fully, but most of these are in place so that employees can come forward and confide in their employers that they are in need of professional treatment, and can seek that treatment without fear of termination. Companies desire their employees’ well-being, and will often have policies in place to encourage those who are genuinely wishing to recover.
In addition to wondering whether or not a person can be terminated, someone considering alcohol rehabilitation may have other questions or concerns regarding the effects treatment will have on careers, a few of which are as follows: What happens after treatment? What if I relapse, will I be terminated? Am I still protected under the policies above upon my return from rehab?If your motives are indeed genuine, you should not need further protection from the law upon returning from treatment. Because of this, the ADA does not protect those who relapse after returning to work and who said relapse negatively affects their ability to perform on the job. There are many online alcohol support groups that can help to prevent relapse even if a recovered alcoholic has no opportunity to visit these meetings physically.
What is expected from an employee who returns from rehab?
Employees returning from alcohol treatment are expected to be on their best performance and behavior. Commonly, the employer will create a written agreement that contains the conditions that will maintain the job security of the employees after the rehabilitation. Through this, they will have an understanding of what behavior is expected from them upon returning from alcoholism treatment.
When all is said and done, most employers desire for their employees to recover from alcoholism fully. If you are an employee whose struggle with alcoholism is hindering your ability to complete work tasks, seriously consider seeking professional treatment, knowing that there are protections in place to help you maintain job security during alcohol rehabilitation.However, once that employee is back on the job, it is up to them to maintain sobriety to keep their position and to find sober hobbies instead of drinking; they must make every effort to stay away from alcohol to ensure that their job remains theirs to perform.