If I Come into Treatment Will I Lose My Job?

Beth Edinger
Beth Edinger
April 10, 2019

People who are employed and need Inpatient treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) have an understandable fear of losing their job if they enter treatment.  For sure, there are no guarantees an employer won’t support such a decision and would choose to terminate one’s employment.


An important factor


influencing how an employer will react to an employee seeking help for an alcohol and/or other drug disorder is the employee’s relationship with his or her peers, immediate supervisor, and employer overall.  Having an unfavorable, untenable status at work due to an active SUD and its many consequences – multiple unexplained absences, missing more work than is normal, poor working relationships with co-workers, legal problems impacting job performance, causing or being adjunctive to workplace accidents or injuries – will certainly augment an employer’s decision to end one’s employment.


On the other hand,


our experience is that employees with SUDs who have initiated treatment for themselves very often obtain their employer’s blessing to enter a treatment program.  There’s no question that being honest about an addiction goes a long way with most employers.  Emphasizing a desire to get help and adding that doing so includes a desire to improve what one knows is subpar job performance also helps generate a favorable employer response.


We also know from experience


that a majority of employers want to see their employees who have an alcohol and/or other drug problem get help and if possible, return to their workplace as sober, productive personnel.  Most know that treatment can work and openly endorse a common benefit of treatment at Tully Hill, that of having back an employee whose job performance exceeds what they expected and hoped for.


Strengthening employees’ need for treatment is the fact that nowadays, more often than not, employers are legally required to allow employees to seek and obtain treatment before terminating them.  As well for unionized employees, whose union policies, for the most part, provide alike protection.


Much of this employee legal protection revolves around the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the American Disabilities Act (ADA), both of which employees should know about if and when they act to get alcohol and/or other drug problem help:


FMLA – Key Provisions

  • Law applies to public agencies (local, state, Federal government), all (public and private) school employees, and private sector employers with 50 or more employees
  • Entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons (an SUD is considered a medical reason/condition)
  • Eligible employee: works for entities listed above, has done so for at least 12 months, has at least 1,250 hours of service for that employer in those 12 months preceding a leave and works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
  • Existing group health benefits via an employer must be maintained during one’s leave
  • The employee must be restored to his or her original job or an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.


ADA – Key Provisions

  • Federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees who have disabilities – chemical dependency is considered a disability under ADA – NOTE: an ‘individual with a disability’ does NOT include someone who is currently using illegal drugs
  • If diagnosed with an SUD or treatment for one is sought voluntarily, one cannot be fired for going to treatment or for past mistakes due to alcohol/drug use
  • Employers have to make “reasonable accommodations” for addicted employees, including affording time off for treatment, adjusting an employees’ responsibilities so treatment can be realized, etc.

In addition, NY State effective 1/1/18 has enacted its Paid Family Leave Act that provides paid time off so an employee can care for a family member with a serious health condition, for which treatment for a substance use disorder qualifies.  Attending a patient’s family conferences and a facility’s family day program would qualify as activities an employee and SUD patient’s family member would be eligible for coverage for, under this new law.


Employees with a regular work schedule of 20 or more hours a week after having been employed for 26 or more weeks are eligible.  As well, employees with a regular work schedule of fewer than 20 hours per week after 175 days have been worked also are eligible.


In 2018, employees are eligible for up to 8 weeks of paid leave at 50% of their average weekly wage.


Co-Authored by,

Paul Marron, MS

Director of Business Development 


Please note that, whereas most if not all of our older blog posts do not have appropriate, non-stigmatizing language – i.e., substance use disorder in place of addiction and/or chemical dependency –  all subsequent posts do and will retain language that avoids propagating negative stereotypes and biases through the use of slang and idioms.

Likewise, we have pledged to follow the guidelines set forth by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and that are conceptually and in general endorsed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASA), the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other federal and state entities governing and regulating substance use disorder. We will therefore now use person-first language that respects the worth and dignity of all people; that focuses on the medical as well as clinical nature of substance use disorders and treatment; and that promotes the recovery process.

Beth Edinger

Human Resources