After completing treatment for an addiction, you eventually will need to return to your regular work life. This can be an exciting but daunting time. It is exciting because you now have something that will keep you productive and help provide for your family. On the other hand, you now have to keep up with the daily demands of your employer.
You also do not know what to expect. Maybe your position was taken by someone else when you were away, or you worry that the stress there will make you go back to substance use.
Even though such threats are there, most people blend in well during recovery and continue with their everyday lives. The good thing is that there are legal protections that will aid in this transition. Such protections also play a significant role in your recovery in the long run.
Legal Protections for Working People in Recovery
Substance use disorder is a severe health condition that often requires treatment. In 2018, the United States Department of Labor clearly identified employers’ duty to help such people prioritize treatment. The person may be in the process of completing their treatment, or they may be on the road to recovery and have just gotten back to work.
The Family and Medical Leave Act , or FMLA, covers a person leaving work to seek substance use disorder treatment. FMLA protects your job when you are undergoing either inpatient treatment or ongoing treatment. If you intend to take care of a family member going through therapy, FMLA also protects you. As such, your employer cannot take action against you or permanently replace your position with someone else while you are absent.
If you are eligible under the FMLA, you enjoy the right to the following:
- 12 weeks of unpaid leave
- Guaranteed job protection for one year
- Maintenance of group health benefits during the leave
Even though FMLA protection is important, there are certain conditions that you need to meet for you to be eligible for the protection:
- You need to have worked for at least the past 12 months.
- You must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the past 12 months.
- The employer needs to have 50 employees working within 75 miles over the past 12 months.
Also, FMLA will not protect you if:
- You are absent from work while engaging in substance abuse.
- Your workplace has a clear policy stating that substance abuse will lead to the termination of your contract.
When seeking medical treatment due to substance use disorder, the FMLA will protect your job. However, if there is a clear statement against substance use and you violated it, your position can be terminated. For example, if you come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you can be fired.
If you are returning from rehab to work and still having ongoing treatment during work hours, the FMLA will protect you when you are absent. As long as you meet its requirements, your job position should not be a matter of concern.
Communicating With Your Employer
When returning to work after rehab, you need to communicate with your employer. You typically need to sign a return-to-work agreement with the HR department. The Americans With Disabilities Act certifies that if workers cannot perform their work due to an underlying mental illness, they have a right to work leave.
Also, the person has the right to accommodation, which is a form of work leave. The ill person has to put in writing at the HR office the number of days they will not be available and the amount of work leave they should be given. Usually, such accommodations will depend on the type of work and the extent of the ailment.
Another accommodation that the FMLA offers is protection in your work. For example, if your rehab sessions are over and you have been declared drug-free, then your employers should not discriminate against you. Instead, they should be understanding so that you can perform well at work.
If you have FMLA protection, then your employer should help you adjust after you return from rehab. For instance, you can request to work for fewer hours. You can then go through the ongoing treatments as you work and transition back to the workplace. You need to communicate with your employer when you intend to resume work.
How Do You Deal With Discrimination at Workplace After Rehab?
It is common to feel anxious when returning to work after rehab. One of the things that could be bothering you is how your colleagues will view you. Will they accommodate you, or offer a hand of support to your recovery?
Discrimination can be a concern once you get back to work. You should know that there are almost inevitable questions about where you’ve been, so be prepared to deal with such questions from coworkers.
You should know that being at work after rehab may be the final step you need to get your life back. Your life may change for the better once you’re back in a productive routine. Also, your colleagues may view you as a brave person and support you all through the journey. You might want to share your trip with a few people you trust once you are back on the job. Some will be more than ready to help you pick up from where you left. However, the decision to inform them lies with you.
In case you are experiencing discrimination, you can report the issue to the human resource manager. Also, the ADA is there to protect you. As long as you are currently not using drugs or alcohol, an ADA specialist can inform you about your rights. You can report to the relevant authority if your employer acts against the law.
Tips for Returning to Work After Rehab
First, congratulate yourself for this bold move and for wanting a positive turn in your life. Even though it is an essential step, it can be full of anxiety, and you may face challenges trying to transition and blend in as before. As such, most rehab centers will offer support as you try to transition.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we will help you with support during your recovery period. Here is some advice from our staff as you return to work.
- Know how you will relate with your colleagues: When going back to work, you’ll be sure to meet inquisitive colleagues who want to know more about your time away. This time, communicating with them may not be as easy as before, even for those with whom you were close. However, it will be easy to talk to the ones you had a stronger bond with. Be ready with a few words for the conversations you may have with them. How much information you share with them is all up to you. Decide who to share certain information with and the amount you are ready to talk about.
- Have a conversation with your employer: Your employer should be supportive in your recovery process. Once you are back, have a one-on-one conversation with your employer. Discuss how you are going to transition and have a plan that will accommodate your situation. Talk to them about your treatment and what it requires, such as the times you will not be available due to support group meetings or other aspects of ongoing treatment. The employer will know the amount of work you can handle. They will also be able to evaluate your transition and have a solution in mind if you are having a hard time at work.
- Know how to cope with workplace stress: Work will help you focus on tasks away from drugs or alcohol and help prevent the relapse of substance use disorder. However, now that you are back to a normal routine, you will encounter stress in adjusting. Ensure that you have a plan in mind on how you will handle the workplace without thinking about going back to your old substance abuse habits. Your treatment recovery plan will help you handle the stress. Knowing the things that cause the most stress when working will help you determine the best coping skills.
- Do not abandon the aftercare program: Once you finish your rehab session, an aftercare treatment plan will help you transition back to work. The plan also ensures that you stick to work without relapsing again, even when it gets hard. Aftercare plans are essential in offering you support for your full recovery. Most rehab centers also offer support groups and alumni gatherings, which can play an important role in your recovery.
- Make use of your work’s employee assistance program: Many jobs offer employee assistance programs. These programs help an employee who is facing any challenges that may impact their job performance. Such challenges may also harm their health, whether personal problems or those that are work-related. In case of any challenge during your recovery process, an employee assistance program will provide you with extra support depending on your line of work.
- Prepare for how you will handle burnout: It is normal to have physical, mental and emotional exhaustion from work. You can also get burnout during your recovery process. During this time, you may feel too exhausted to continue with treatment. Handling burnout relapse when still recovering is not easy. To handle such stress and exhaustion, ensure from the get-go that you are taking care of yourself first before anything else. Proper self-care includes getting enough sleep and physical activity.
- Know you are not alone: Many people have gone back to work after rehab. The path is full of ups and downs, but you are not alone in this. Getting back to your work environment is not easy. You may experience discrimination, and you may feel lonely at times. Do not cease to seek support from your close acquaintances and other professionals. Ensure that you speak up to those who you know will offer a listening ear to you.
- Follow the agreements you sign with your employer: After going back to work, your employer will likely require you to sign the return-to-work agreement. It dictates what the employer expects from you upon returning to work. The document serves to protect both you and the supervisor. Therefore, in case of any disagreement, they will refer to it. The document also spells out the help the employer should give you.
Programs That Will Help You Transition Back to Work
With the program at Granite Recovery Centers, you will plan for after-treatment services with the help of addiction specialists. You will also join our support groups that will offer you assistance and ensure that you are on track with the aftercare plan. If you have a tight schedule at the workplace, you can enjoy our teletherapy sessions in the comfort of your home.
The Option of Moving to Another Company
Going back to your initial company after rehab is sometimes daunting. First, you are answerable to your colleagues on what has been going on. You also know the place well, and maybe the stress there can lead to relapsing. If people there were doing drugs with you and are still your acquaintances, the environment may not be friendly for you. As such, you may see the need to find another workplace.
A comfortable working environment is essential. You may even want to get a job helping fellow individuals in addiction recovery at a rehab facility. Some of these jobs include nursing, finance staff, therapists, housekeeping and much more. You can check some open positions at our job portal.
Getting Additional Help and Information
If you are transitioning back to work from rehab, you can consult ADA specialists, the Job Accommodation Network and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for more information. They will give you more information concerning your legal rights at the workplace and help you handle discrimination.
Their contact information is:
- Job Accommodation Network: 1-800-526-7234
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information Line: 1-800-514-0301
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Find local field offices at eeoc.gov.
We hope that you will have a smooth process as you move back to work from rehab. You can ask for assistance from your close colleagues or the human resource directors at your place of employment. If your rights are violated, the National Disability Rights Network will help you get legal aid.
Do Not Keep Hesitate to Seek Help
Substance use disorder typically leads to poor work performance. Speak up in case you are struggling with this or you have a loved one who engages in substance abuse. Granite Recovery Centers is here to offer you assistance. Our top-notch professionals are ready to help you in your recovery journey. Contact a representative from Granite Recovery Centers and we’ll help you get your life back.