Substance abuse has the potential to interrupt virtually every element of your life, from your relationships with your family and friends to your career. All of these effects are devastating and can have lasting marks on your future, but addiction’s impact on employment is often an afterthought.
With addiction comes very strong denial. Even if you know that there’s a problem, it might feel easier to lie about it, hide your symptoms, and take a combative stance against inquiries than it is to seek help. At work, these kinds of tactics are generally seen as unprofessional and can put your career in jeopardy. This is especially true for addicts who use just before or even during work.
Despite all this, there is some good news: by fully understanding the federal protections and creating a plan with your supervisor and management team, it’s possible to get clean and sober without losing your job.
The Effects of Addiction on Your Career
Addiction can be extremely detrimental to the progression of your career, affecting everything from your relationships with your customers and coworkers to your performance on big projects. Whether you are intoxicated in the office or suffering from withdrawal, any form of substance abuse has the potential to negatively affect your performance— and consequently, your reputation.
In the workplace, addiction can lead to significant issues, including:
- Failure to meet goals and objectives as determined by management
- Aggression or inappropriate interactions with coworkers
- Missing deadlines and failing to complete assignments
- Notable mistakes on large or important projects
- Increase in tardiness and absences
- Erratic behavior with customers
- Disrespect to authority figures
While a few lapses from time to time are understandable (and can happen to anyone), a significant drop in your performance is a big red flag that could mark the end of your career. Plus, since consuming substances in the workplace is grounds for immediate dismissal for most jobs, failure to address the problem and get help will most likely complicate future employment stability.
All in all, no matter how good you think you are at hiding your substance abuse problem, the people you work with will notice sooner or later— and you will be left to face the consequences.
Do I Really Need to Tell My Boss?
It’s understandable that telling your boss about your addiction is one of the last things you want to do. Coming to terms with a pattern of substance abuse, admitting it to friends and family, and making a treatment plan is hard enough, but bringing coworkers and bosses into the matter might feel like a push over the edge. You might even feel like their involvement makes the addiction that much more real.
Most workplaces won’t tolerate a rapid drop in employee performance. However, if you want to save your career from crumbling, your superiors need to know about your addiction— and they need to know as soon as you make the decision to seek treatment. They are far more likely to understand and create a plan moving forward if you are honest about why you’re struggling and what you plan to do about it. Plus, talking to your boss is often the first step in enacting federal protections available to those seeking addiction treatment. The longer you hide your addiction, the more it will hurt you in the long-run.
Federal Protections for Addiction Treatment
Did you know that addiction is considered a disease or disability under federal law? As such, the same protections that would shield you if you contracted any other chronic disease, like cancer or diabetes, would still apply. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are two legislations that protect addicts when they come forward in the workplace.
Under the ADA, you cannot be fired or penalized for your addiction once you disclose your condition to your superiors. If you are fired for your addiction, you have the right to file a lawsuit for discrimination.
Under FMLA, you are eligible to take up to 12 weeks per every 12-month period for approved medical reasons, which includes time spent in rehabilitation. This 12-week period is unpaid unless your employer has another arrangement in place. Still, it provides a way for you to keep your job while in rehab.
Before going to your boss, be sure to double-check your eligibility for either of these protections. In addition, be sure to also review your company’s policies regarding addiction-related medical leave. In order to receive coverage under ADA or FMLA, you must explicitly mention these policies when discussing your leave with your boss. If you operate under the assumption that you will protected without first checking your eligibility, you may be in for an unfortunate shock.
Talking to Your Boss about Rehab
Approaching your boss is something you’ll need to do in order to get the protections that can cover you during rehabilitation. How you do this should be in accordance with the structure of your department and corporate policies. In any case, someone in your chain of command will need to be involved. Going to either your direct supervisor or the head of your department may be the easiest way to get the ball rolling. Be sure to make your decision about who to speak with based on who may have a better idea of the company’s policies regarding rehab medical leave. If you have questions or concerns about this feel free to give our admission counselors a call, they have experience guiding our patients through the process.
When you decide to come forward about your addiction, the first step is to schedule a meeting with your chosen contact person. Be sure to also get a member of your HR department involved, if possible. During the meeting, you should:
- make it clear that you want to incite the protections of ADA or FMLA
- bring any documentation that shows your edibility for ADA or FMLA
- be as open as possible about the reality of the situation
- be prepared to answer any of their questions
- be prepared to take responsibility
- discuss your plan of action
Most importantly, be professional. Your company, provided it plays by the rules, should be willing and able to work with you throughout this process to ensure the best possible results for everyone involved.
Getting Help for Your Addiction with TTC Care
Keeping your job in the face of addiction depends wholly on receiving treatment, getting well, and returning to work as a sober, mature, and responsible individual. If you are ready to address your addiction and start your journey on the road to recovery, TTC Care is here for you. Please contact us at (888) 991-4395 to learn more about the options available for you and your loved ones.