Current data shows that Florida has a significant problem when it comes to substance abuse. To help put this into context, the National Institute on Drug abuse (NIDDA) reports that there were over 3,000 overdose deaths in the sunshine state in 2016. It is important to note that the city of West Palm Beach has seen its fair share of drug-related deaths stemming from synthetic opioids, which accounted for nearly 2,000 deaths in 2016. Also worth noting, underage drinking is 4 percent higher than the national average in Palm Beach County. Lastly, more than 4,000 DUI arrests are made in the county every year.
Given these statistics, it is not unreasonable to conclude that alcoholism is just as big a problem in Palm Beach County as drug abuse. While many people have decided to seek help for their addiction to alcohol, some are still reluctant to get the help that they need and have cited fear of losing their job as the primary reason. In this article, we will take a look at the federal laws that are designed to protect not only your privacy but also your job while you work toward overcoming your addiction to alcohol.
WHY YOU SHOULD DISCLOSE YOUR PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL TO YOUR EMPLOYER
While the fear of losing your job as a result of opening up about your addiction is understandable, not taking steps to conquer your addiction could lead to subpar work performance, which could potentially lead to termination anyway. Once you have made up your mind to seek help for your addiction, most rehab programs will advise you of your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and also the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
These federal laws are in place to protect your job should you need a leave of absence due to health reasons. And yes, substance abuse qualifies as a serious health condition under FMLA. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides you with some recourse in the event that you’re terminated while seeking help for your addiction. For example, if your termination was based on your decision to seek help for an addiction, you can file a lawsuit against your employer for discrimination under the ADA.
HOW CAN A ALCOHOL REHAB PROGRAM HELP YOU KEEP YOUR JOB?
Most alcohol and drug treatment programs can assist you in gathering any information that you will need relative to your treatment that you can then give to your employer. They may also be able to help with your Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA) after you have completed your treatment. These agreements outline what employers will be expecting from an employee once he or she returns to work following the completion of an alcohol rehab program. However, this is usually the end of their involvement. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to work with your employer’s human resources department to confirm that they are required to follow FMLA guidelines as smaller companies with fewer than 15 employees are not required to do so. The same also applies to ADA as well.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE SEEKING TREATMENT FOR ALCOHOL ABUSE
Assuming your employer is required to follow ADA and FMLA guidelines based on their employee count and other criteria, you will want to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies as they relate to drug and alcohol abuse. For example, if you have an accident at work while under the influence, FMLA and ADA may not apply. In most cases, you will also need to have a letter from a licensed physician stating that your addiction constitutes a serious health condition under FMLA. While this may all seem daunting, taking these steps will ensure you can keep your job while getting the help that you need to overcome your addiction. Furthermore, these procedures are also in place to help employers as well. According to drugabuse.gov, substance abuse costs the U.S. more than $700 billion in lost revenue each year, most of which is attributed to a loss of productivity, healthcare costs, and injuries in the workplace.
WILL YOUR EMPLOYER PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY?
One of the biggest concerns that most people have when it comes to opening up about their addiction is that their struggles will become the subject of gossip in the workplace. Assuming that your employer is required to follow FMLA and ADA guidelines, your privacy will be protected. However, most employers already have policies in place that are designed to protect sensitive employee information. That said, if you’re ready to overcome your addiction to alcohol, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable representatives today at 800-737-0933.