Talking to Your Employer About FMLA
You’ve done it. You’ve decided to take the first step in putting an end to substance abuse by seeking treatment at a facility. While it won’t be an easy process, it’s a necessary step in your recovery. However, before you head off to treatment, you’ll need to take care of some things in your life. Namely, you’ll need to talk with your employer about your recovery process.
When it comes time to bring up the subject of substance abuse treatment to your employer, make sure you’ve done your research and are open about your problems. You’ve been lying to the world long enough – now is the time to come clean.
Make Sure You Understand FMLA Qualifications
Thanks to protection from the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you cannot be fired for seeking out rehab treatment, or medical treatment of any kind. You are guaranteed at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a year for taking care of a serious medical condition, and addiction definitely qualifies.
Before you march into your boss’s office and say you’re taking FMLA leave, make sure that you and your company qualifies. For example, you’ll need to have been at your job for at least 12 months and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours. For some people, this might be a problem, as their substance abuse issues might have caused them to recently seek new employment after being terminated from their last job. Additionally, your company also needs to be big enough to be eligible for the FMLA. The company must have a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles of its headquarters.
Consider Your Employer and Your Industry
When speaking to your boss, it’s a good idea to consider how they might react when you tell them that you want to take medical leave. While you don’t need to tell your employer the reason for your medical leave, it is worth considering being open about your struggle as you take strides into a new life. Has anyone else in the workplace ever admitted to an addiction? Are there any corporate policies in place that might govern your decision? Is your boss in recovery themselves?
Also consider your industry. Some fields change month-to-month, and keeping in touch with colleagues could be essential to keeping your skills sharp.
All of these could be solid reasons to be open about your recovery. By brainstorming all of this beforehand, you can devise a method of disclosure that will be appropriate.
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Know Your Rights to Privacy
Walking into your boss’s office, stating you’re taking off a few months for FMLA, and then clocking out is not the most effective strategy. Taking medical leave at moment’s notice usually requires a certificate from a medical professional stating the time you’ll be gone and why you need the leave. While the certificate does not say the reason for your leave, it will give a reason why you cannot work while going through treatment. For instance, the certificate might say you will be gone for 45 days to undergo treatment for a condition that prevents you from functioning at your job, but will not say that you are struggling with an addiction.
You will have to notify your employer that you will be taking leave, but the certificate can be handled during your medical detox. Also, while you are on medical leave, you must abide by sick time procedures set by your company, or your FMLA claim won’t be valid.
Describe Your Addiction Honestly
When talking about your substance abuse, mention that you’re ready to get addiction help. Make it clear that you have had problems, but you want to leave them all in the past. Explain that by going to drug rehab or drug detox, you’ll be able to get back on track with a normal life. You might want to bring along some literature on drug addiction and recovery, just in case they aren’t familiar with it.
Talking to your employer is a clear step towards recovery, and a good time to be honest with yourself. When you consider how much you’ve already accomplished by enrolling in a rehab program, this is just one more small step.
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