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How to Protect Your Career While in Rehab

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For many working professionals, going to rehab can seem impossible. It requires taking time off from work. This begs the question of whether you will be fired or lose your job by going to treatment for addiction or mental health disorders. However, you can protect your career while getting help. 

While you may run into prejudices at work, you can take steps to safeguard yourself and your career. Legally, addiction is considered a serious medical condition that requires treatment. This means that the family medical leave act (FMLA) protects you and your career, allowing up to three months of unpaid leave to address your addiction and receive proper help. 

Getting Help to Protect Your Career 

Learning how to protect your career is important. However, when you are struggling with addiction, it can be challenging to sort through the legalities around this issue. Getting help with sorting through this is vital. Assistance can come in many forms. Speaking with your support network at home and work is a good place to start. 

The human resources (HR) department at work can help you understand the assistance you qualify for and the allowances your company will make in terms of leave. Remember, you do not have to disclose any information, but you can ask to get an idea of what is covered. Speaking with your insurance company is also important. Your insurance company can assist you in learning about what treatment options are covered, or a least provide a great starting point. 

What Is the FMLA?

The FMLA is a federal law that was brought into existence in 1993. Primarily, the goal of this act is to help individuals like yourself protect their careers and improve efficiency by addressing health issues. The act requires that companies allow their employees up to three months of unpaid leave to get the help they need for serious medical conditions. 

The FMLA can be used for serious medical conditions. This includes both addiction and mental health disorders. According to The Office of Human Resource Management of the United States, a serious medical condition is defined as the following:

  • It requires overnight hospitalization, including a period of incapacity or overnight care needed
  • There is a need for continued treatment under the care of a healthcare professional
  • It is incapacitating or disrupts your ability to work, attend school, or function regularly 

Basically, a serious medical condition impacts your ability to function. This is true of both addiction and mental health disorders.

How to Know if You Qualify 

Speaking with your HR department is a good place to start in understanding the specific qualifications. However, certain qualifications will allow you to use the FMLA to protect your career. These include the following:

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Have worked for the same employer for more than 12 months consecutively
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months 
  • Work in an area where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles 

You likely already know whether you and your employer meet those qualifications. However, it is common to now know what the term “covered employer” means. The definition is fairly broad. An employer is considered covered if they fit the following criteria:

  • Private sector with more than 50 employees working at least 20 or more weeks per year
  • Any local, state, or federal government agency
  • Public or private elementary and secondary schools

How Does It Protect Your Career?

The FMLA protects your career by allowing you the time you need to seek help. While three months is not a long stretch, it is enough time to build a foundation for your addiction recovery. 

Taking advantage of FMLA coverage can be very valuable in protecting your career. Not only does it allow you time to address your needs, but it also helps you to be more successful at work. In returning to better health, you will be more productive and effective at your job. 

Considerations When Using the FMLA

Addiction is considered a disability. While legally your employer cannot fire you for a disability, there is a caveat that applies to addiction. Your employer does have the right to fire you if your condition is interfering with your performance or if you use drugs or alcohol in the workplace. For instance, if you use drugs or alcohol at your workplace, you can be terminated or disciplined, regardless of the FMLA. 

The FMLA gives you the opportunity to take time off work without fear of losing your job. However, it is important to note that it does not protect you from any discipline or termination due to your performance at work. 

Getting help from a treatment center that addresses addiction and related behavioral issues will assist you in avoiding termination. In treatment, you will learn how to abstain from drugs and alcohol, while building new coping skills that you will take into your work life. Treatment is the first step toward building a sober life while protecting your job now and in the future. 

Addiction is a serious disease that impacts your ability to function and excel as a working professional. Entering a treatment program to get help is essential. Treatment will address the physical addiction and help you learn new habits and coping skills. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues and professionals who help you overcome them. During treatment, you will learn skills that can help you excel at work while maintaining your sobriety. If you have questions about the FMLA or how to locate help, call us at (949) 426-7962 today. Our staff can help you make the first step on your path to recovery.


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