Sadly, that fear is not misplaced.
For millions, the battle with alcoholism and drug addiction is a daily fight. And because of the stigmas attached to these disabilities, people suffer in silence.
But what happens when the silence is broken, and the secret is out?
When an employee realizes they need help, they don’t know what steps to take. But they should act early. This is especially true if the employee realizes their work attendance or performance is suffering, or pressures on the job are having a negative effect on them.
This article can in no way fully inform an employee. Because every employee will have their own special set of circumstances and people’s responses are always an unknown variable, know that we are here to help. Workers should know they have a right to:
Speak up and ask for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act:
When it comes to alcoholism and drug addiction, one of the most difficult steps is, or will be, admitting there’s a problem. But, what next?
Having an alcohol or drug addiction is a disability, but this disability does not insulate an employee from discipline or termination. Employers may still hold all workers to the same work performance standards. So, it is up to the employee to take the necessary steps to get treatment, and the FMLA helps workers do just that.
Under the FMLA, substance abuse is considered a serious health condition for which the employee may be entitled to FMLA leave to receive treatment. Leave under the FMLA for substance abuse treatment is protected if it is provided by a health care provider or a provider of health care services.
If under the FMLA you are an eligible employee, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. If this leave is necessary to receive proper treatment, you have a right to speak up and use it.
Speak up and ask for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act:
Beyond the FMLA, you may be entitled to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer under the ADA.
One of the key functions of the ADA is to create a duty for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities.
An employee that suffers from alcoholism or is recovering from alcoholism is considered disabled under the ADA. Usage of illegal drugs is not protected under the ADA, but recovering addicts that are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been successfully rehabilitated are also protected.
Under the ADA, these workers may be entitled to reasonable accommodations. Accommodations may include a modified work schedule to attend Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings or a leave of absence for treatment. It is imperative that an employee in need of help speak with their health care provider to determine what work accommodations might help them be successful in both their recovery and at work.
When the silence is broken, know your rights and exercise them. If you are not sure where to start, you can contact an attorney to help. If you don’t speak up for yourself no one else will.