For anyone struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, the thought of telling your boss you’re going to a treatment facility can be scary. Should you tell your boss everything, nothing or something in between? What should you say?
Asking for 30, 60 or more days off to enter a treatment facility can be frightening. You may be afraid you’ll get fired, or your job will change by the time you get back. There are a few things you should know before having a conversation with human resources or your supervisor about taking time off.
- You’re not obligated to tell your employer the exact reason for the leave of absence. Most companies have a leave of absence policy in place that covers many situations ranging from family emergencies to treatment programs.
- Your supervisor likely knows you have a problem anyway. Although you may think you’ve got your boss fooled, chances are pretty good that he or she knows you have a substance abuse problem. It’s hard to be at your best when addiction occupies your mind. It’s probably going to come as no surprise to your boss that you need time off for treatment.
- Your boss may not be as unfamiliar with substance abuse treatment as you think. Substance abuse is so common today that most people have at least a passing familiarity with treatment programs. Your boss probably has a friend, relative or another coworker in recovery — or your boss may even be in recovery.
- You don’t have to tell colleagues any details. If you’re not comfortable sharing details with colleagues, then don’t. You’re under no obligation to tell anyone where you’re headed.
Can I Get Fired for Going to a Treatment Facility?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects your job in the event you enter into a treatment facility. While you can get fired for poor job performance before you tell your boss that you’re entering treatment, you cannot be fired for going into a drug or alcohol treatment program or continuing your recovery once you are working again. The ADA protects against discrimination for any disability, including drug and alcohol-related disabilities.
Your employer needs to make reasonable accommodations for your recovery. Your employer cannot penalize you for going to a treatment facility, attending NA or AA meetings on your own time, or participating in any other recovery method.
Telling Your Boss: It’s Up to You
You’ll need to tell your boss that you are taking a leave of absence. Since most treatment facilities limit the use of electronic devices such as cell phones while you’re in treatment, you can’t be contacted during this time, either. However, beyond that, the details of your illness are up to you to disclose or not as you see fit.
You might be surprised, however, at the positive reaction you get when you share your recovery plan. Bosses are human, after all, and your boss only wants the best for you. Your company will benefit from having you back healthy and whole when you return.