Can I Lose My Job Because of Addiction

Can I Lose My Job Because of Addiction

When addiction to drugs or alcohol has reached the point where it is negatively impacting your ability to perform satisfactorily on the job, it can be a catalyst to finally getting the help one needs.  Up until that point, simply ignoring the impact of the substance abuse on family members or a spouse was easier than contemplating going to addiction rehab.  The fear that a stint in rehab could cost you your job or, at the very least, label you with a stigma at your workplace, was too painful to consider.

“Can I lose my job because of addiction?” you might ask, and rightly so.  After all, most U.S. employers have strict workplace policies about drug and alcohol use on the job, and many companies expect compliance with random drug and alcohol testing.  A positive test result may be grounds for dismissal. To answer the question, “Can I lose my job because of addiction?” the short answer is “It depends.”

What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Established in 1993 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that an employer cannot terminate an employee who has requested a leave of absence for a medical condition that requires treatment, including receiving substance abuse treatment.  The employee may take an unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks to obtain addiction treatment without fear of losing their job. The qualifying employees seeing a leave of absence for treatment are expected to coordinate with coworkers to have them cover their job duties in their absence.

There are some restrictions to note.  The employee must have worked for the employer for a minimum of one year, and the employer must have a minimum of 50 employees to be held to FMLA requirements.  Also, if there is an established policy in place that has been clearly communicated to all the employees which states reasons why an employee may be terminated for drug or alcohol abuse, then the employer can exercise that policy and terminate the employee.

How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protect Recovering Addicts?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers limited protections against discriminatory practices against employees with substance use disorders.  The ADA does not consider an individual who is active in their addiction while employed to be an “individual with a disability.”  Employers have the right to prohibit the use of illegal drugs or alcohol in the workplace, and can legally test employees and terminate them if the test returns positive for a substance.

However, if an employee has a history of addiction, or is currently participating in addiction treatment, and is no longer using, that individual is protected under the ADA and cannot be discriminated against.  Alcoholism is considered a disability, so alcoholics are protected under the ADA.  Regardless, employers have a right to enforce policies the prohibit drinking alcohol in the workplace.  Also, an employee who is an alcoholic will be held to the same work-related standards as other employees.

When Addiction Can Lead to a Job Termination

“Can I lose my job because of addiction?”  Yes.  If, as an individual battling a drug addiction or alcoholism, one cannot perform satisfactorily on the job—even if the employer never knows about the addiction—you can lose your job.  Addiction causes negative consequences related to one’s work.  Possibly not showing up to work on time on a consistent basis; not completing assignments on time; producing sub-standard work; being under the influence at work—all can be a direct result of one’s addiction, and can lead to termination.

However, say there has been no discernible decline in workplace productivity yet and the employee abstains from using drugs and alcohol while at work.  When this employee goes to the Human Resources department to request a medical leave of absence for substance abuse treatment, it is not grounds for termination.  They are protected.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Addiction Treatment Providers for Employees

The Treatment Specialist offers a free locator service to expedite the process of searching for drug and alcohol addiction rehabs so you get the help you need now.  The specialists have access to a wide array of high quality rehabs in their provider network and will guide you to the best treatment match for your unique needs and resources.  Get the help you deserve before addiction begins to impact your career.  Contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.

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