Addiction and Employment: Can I Lose My Job?

If you are struggling with an addiction you may be concerned about the consequences of seeking treatment. There are federal laws in place that can protect people from losing their jobs if they struggle with drug or alcohol addiction.

Usually, you cannot lose your job by seeking treatment for your addiction. When you talk about your addiction with your employer, you may find them to be more receptive and supportive than you imagined. Perhaps your employer will find it more beneficial to invest in your health and development rather than spending the money to hire and train a new employee.

The Right to Rehab: Are You Protected?

This page provides guidance for employees who struggle with an alcohol or drug addiction. This is in no way legal advice, but a platform to help make you aware of the laws in place that protect you.

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Addiction to drugs or alcohol is viewed today as a mental disorder and disability, in most cases. If you want to seek treatment for your addiction and are afraid of losing your job, you should not worry. Even after receiving addiction treatment you could be considered disabled while living in recovery.

Here are federal laws in place that can protect people with a substance abuse disorder, or an addiction:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993

Disability by Law

In a 2012 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8.4 million Americans suffered from substance abuse along with another mental disorder. In fact, those with a substance addiction are two times more likely to suffer from a mood or anxiety disorder.

According to law, a disability is defined as someone who has a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities.” Dealing with recovery, even if you do not suffer from another mental disorder, can impact or limit your major daily activities. For some in recovery, it takes everything they have to go to sleep, wake up, and develop a normal routine.

If you are seeking treatment for your addiction, it is likely you will not be fired because of the laws in place that view addiction as a disability.

It should be noted that a person's disability is decided on a case-by-case basis. If you are continuing to use drugs or alcohol you are not protected by the disability act. Also, people whose drug or alcohol use poses a threat to the safety of others are not protected as well.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, any case is less likely to be ruled as unlawful discrimination if a person in rehab or in recovery from addiction is denied a job, services or benefits because of the following:

  • Does not meet essential job requirements
  • Is unable to perform the job
  • Creates a direct threat to health and safety by his or her behavior, even if the behavior is caused by a substance abuse disorder
  • Violates company rules that discipline anyone for doing drugs

If You Use...You Lose

Of course, you are protected by these laws, but seeking treatment could be the best decision you make for your future. When you continue using drugs or alcohol, you run the risk of succumbing to the symptoms of addiction. Using drugs or alcohol can increase the chances of losing your job and potentially ruin your career.

Help is available. Otherwise, you run the risk of:

  • Illegal activity resulting in your arrest, which could result in termination
  • Absenteeism as a result of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Tardiness as a result of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Decrease in work production, which could result in termination
  • Increase in financial and personal problems, which can affect your work performance
  • Increase your chances of theft, or stealing from work to support your addiction
  • Reduced concentration on work tasks as a result of being high or wanting to be high
  • Building bad relationships with coworkers
  • Increase in poor decision-making
  • Decrease in morale and respect from coworkers

When you use drugs or alcohol you are making it harder on yourself to keep your job. When you learn to live sober, these problems can begin to go away, turning you into a more productive, valuable employee.

End Your Addiction Today

Talking to your employer about addiction treatment does not have to be a painful conversation. When they see you want to better yourself, it is likely they will take your plea seriously and assist in finding the treatment you need. If you are uncomfortable talking to your employer about your addiction, there are placement companies that will help you find the right treatment center, for no cost. Addiction recovery may not be easy, but learning to live sober can improve all areas of your life.