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Updated on October 7th, 2020

How to Keep Your Job and Protect Your Privacy During Rehab

Working up the courage to admit you have a substance abuse problem is hard enough, but committing to a long-term drug rehab program can be even more challenging, especially when you have a job to maintain and your personal reputation to protect.

These things are issues that addicted individuals frequently face when leveraging their options for addiction treatment. But there are ways to protect your job and your privacy while enrolled in drug rehab.

What Are Common Barriers to Addiction Treatment?

Several different factors may keep a person from enrolling in a drug and alcohol rehab program.1 Common reasons include:

  • Stigmatization
  • Denial
  • Lack of insurance/Medicaid
  • Wanting to conceal treatment from a spouse
  • Fear of treatment
  • Inability to share with others
  • Privacy concerns
  • Job-related pressure

Among the many barriers to treatment, privacy concerns and job-related pressure are some of the most practical and economic factors. Even while in rehab, responsibilities such as bills, job-related tasks, and financial security are still very important. Additionally, maintaining personal privacy is a high priority, especially for those who wish to keep their substance abuse problems away from the prying eyes of coworkers and other acquaintances outside of the family.

To fully commit to a drug and alcohol rehab program, many people in recovery must feel confident in their ability to maintain their employment and protect their privacy. Fortunately, there are ways to achieve this.

Can You Work While in Rehab?

Going to rehab while working isn’t always feasible for everyone, but many people successfully do it. If a person is severely addicted, he or she may not be able to hold down a job while in rehab. However, sometimes people who seek help early on in their addiction can maintain other life responsibilities (such as employment) while they are in rehab. It all depends on the person and his or her circumstances.

Research shows that most adults with substance use disorders are employed full time.2 Although many people never seek addiction treatment, those who do may attend an intensive outpatient program (IOP), which allows for a more flexible treatment schedule. Others may start their addiction treatment regimen with an online program, which offers even greater flexibility for people who are employed part-time or full-time. After completing online treatment, they may continue their treatment with IOP or a sober living program.

If your job requires that you keep your laptop or cell phone in alcohol rehab with you, some addiction treatment centers offer executive detox and rehab programs, which are specifically tailored to professionals. These programs often allow clients to have access to a personal computer and phone for employment purposes.

If you are wondering how to go to rehab without losing your job, an in-person IOP, online IOP, or executive rehab program might be a good option for you.

How to Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

If you need to attend drug rehab while you are employed, there are a few federal laws that are designed to protect your job while you are on leave attending rehab.2 These laws are:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • The Fair Housing Act
  • The Workforce Investment Act

It’s important to note that the laws listed above will not protect the employment status of people who currently use drugs illegally, individuals who put others’ safety at risk with their drug or alcohol use, or anyone whose substance abuse does not significantly impair their life activities, such as work.2

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor law that also provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. Under this law, medical benefits must also be maintained during the leave period, so you may be able to use them to reduce your out-of-pocket cost of addiction treatment.3

Eligible employees must meet the following requirements to take advantage of the protections the FMLA provides:

  • You must be employed by a covered employer.
  • You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.
  • You must have at least 1,250 hours of service for your employer during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave.
  • You must work at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Keeping these legal protections in mind, you will also need to be careful about how you approach your boss when taking leave for a substance use disorder. While most employers cannot legally force you to disclose the exact reason for your medical leave, depending on your circumstances and your employer’s policies, you may or may not decide to reveal the truth about your addiction treatment. The decision is up to you, but it would be wise to review your employee handbook before taking action.

Does an EAP Protect Your Job?

If you choose to use your company’s EAP benefits to receive counseling for drug or alcohol addiction, you cannot be fired for seeking help. However, if a condition of your ongoing employment is that you must comply with treatment, and you do not, you could potentially lose your job.

What to Tell Your Boss If You Need to Go to Rehab

Keeping the previously discussed legal protections in mind, you will also need to be careful about how you approach your boss when taking leave for a substance use disorder. While most employers cannot legally force you to disclose the exact reason for your medical leave, depending on your circumstances and your employer’s policies, you may or may not decide to reveal the truth about your addiction treatment. The decision is up to you, but it would be wise to review your employee handbook before taking action.

Is Rehab Confidential?

Yes. If you want your drug and alcohol rehab records to remain confidential, certain federal laws are designed to protect your privacy.

One of the primary drug rehab confidentiality laws that will work in your favor is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.5 HIPAA is a federal law that works to protect the privacy of your medical records, including the details of any drug and alcohol rehab programs you attend. 

Here is how HIPAA protects you and your medical information:

  • You can request that your information not be shared with certain people, groups, or companies, such as your employer.
  • Unless it directly relates to your healthcare, your personal information can’t be shared without your consent. This means, your records won’t be shared with your employer unless you provide written permission.
  • You are notified whenever anyone has seen your medical information.

However, there are a few circumstances where your information can be shared without your consent, such as:

  • Insurance purposes – Employees of your insurance company will review your personal information for documentation and coverage purposes.
  • Your healthcare treatment – Your personal information and treatment history will be shared among healthcare professionals to provide you with adequate treatment. 
  • Criminal investigations – If law enforcement officials are investigating a crime and they believe you may be either a suspect or a victim, they can access your medical records.
  • Court orders – Your medical records may be required to be submitted in a court of law to prove that you received treatment. This is especially likely if you attended a court-ordered rehab program.

Your substance use disorder patient records are also protected by another set of federal regulations that were originally passed under the name “Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records.”6 If you are seeking out treatment at a federally-assisted or regulated treatment program, these protections apply to you.

Essentially, this set of regulations ensures that no information will be released that identifies you as having a substance use disorder or revealing that you participated in an addiction treatment program unless you give written permission for that information to be released to a certain party.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Your personal medical information may be released without your consent in certain instances, such as:

  • Court orders
  • Cause of death reporting
  • Criminal investigations
  • Child abuse or neglect reporting
  • Medical emergencies

Privacy Protections for Individuals Who Are Working While In Recovery

After rehab, the thought of finding a job and working while in recovery may seem daunting, especially if you don’t want your employer to find out about your substance abuse treatment. However, if you are concerned that a prospective employer will find out you were in rehab, there are also legal protections for that.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects your privacy as a job applicant by not allowing potential employers to ask certain interview questions. For example, an employer is not allowed to ask you about your addiction or your legal use of prescription drugs. However, a potential employer can ask you about your illegal use of drugs, such as, “Have you ever used illegal drugs?” as long as the question doesn’t divulge any information about your substance abuse treatment.

It’s important to know that potential employers can also ask you about any drug-related convictions. If you lie when you answer and get hired, you may be fired later down the road if they find out the truth.

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also released new guidance addressing the rights of opioid users in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act.7 Under the new guidance, employees who are using opioids, are addicted to opioids, or were addicted to opioids in the past, but are not currently using drugs illegally, may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA, such as a different work schedule that accommodates substance abuse treatment.

Although employers can take adverse employment actions against any employees who are misusing opioids illegally, they are not allowed to disqualify or terminate someone who uses opioids legally. This includes using opioids as directed by a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program.

Employees who need to stop working to get addiction treatment for opioid use disorder may also be entitled to take sick leave or other accrued leave, unpaid FMLA leave, or other unpaid leave to do so. The EEOC also recommends that employers allow employees to explain any positive drug test results, as may be necessary for people who are currently engaged in a medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addiction.

How Nova Protects Your Privacy During Drug Rehab

While you are enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program at Nova Recovery Center, you have complete control over the privacy of your personal information. You are entitled to complete confidentiality if you wish, and our staff members will not provide anyone with information about your stay unless you provide explicit consent.

During the initial enrollment process, a member of our staff will ask you to fill out a consent form. On this form, you will have the ability to list any and all entities or individuals that you will allow to receive information about your addiction treatment. You also can add or remove the names of individuals and entities from this list at any time.

Understandably, if you wish to keep your addiction treatment between you and your immediate family members, you may also have concerns about other clients or visitors recognizing you while you’re enrolled at a local rehab center.

For this reason, many people choose to enroll at a rehab center located in a different city or state. Not only does this provide miles and physical distance between you and everyone you know, but it can also remove you from local temptations, places you used to use, and substance-abusing friends.

Completing a drug and rehab program in a different city or state can also symbolize a fresh start. It can provide additional privacy while also serving as great motivation to commit to a long-term lifestyle change.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can keep your job and protect your privacy while enrolled in rehab or detox, please contact Nova Recovery Center for more information. We promise to maintain ultimate discretion and protect your privacy while you’re enrolled in drug detox and rehab. 

We even provide an executive detox program that is tailored to the personal and professional needs of individuals with established careers and serves as a solid cornerstone for a life of sustained sobriety. Our knowledgeable admissions team has guided countless individuals through the enrollment process and will be able to answer your questions and provide professional recommendations, so call today.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986793/
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-SP132-FullTime-2014/NSDUH-SP132-FullTime-2014.pdf
  3. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PHD1091/PHD1091.pdf
  4. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla
  5. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/faq/index.html
  6. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/faqs-applying-confidentiality-regulations-to-hie.pdf
  7. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/use-codeine-oxycodone-and-other-opioids-information-employees
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