How Much Is My Employer Allowed to Ask About After Rehab?

How Much Is My Employer Allowed to Ask About After Rehab?

You are entitled to a certain amount of privacy in the workplace and your employer is not allowed to terminate your employment due to past addiction or the treatment of addiction. If you have recently completed rehab for chemical dependence there are limits as to what your employer can ask about your treatment, and what your employer can share with others about your treatment. In fact, the following laws and regulations are specifically designed to protect your privacy and to prevent discrimination related to your addiction and treatment:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • The Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

While nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, if you believe that you are being discriminated against or treated unfairly due to past substance abuse or treatment you should seek help from an attorney or the government agency tasked with monitoring your workplace.

Employers are allowed to require compliance with substance abuse laws. They are also allowed to protect other workers from dangerous workplace conditions. But several laws have outlined the appropriate use of those rights and have outlined their limitations. Although it can be difficult to understand all of the laws related to substance abuse and employment, it is important for you to understand that you have rights and that you should not delay treatment for fear of workplace reprisal.

Understanding Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

The fundamental principle of modern anti-discrimination laws is the US Government’s commitment to preventing discrimination or other mistreatment of individuals who suffer from a disability. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) a “disability” is defined as follows:

  • A current “physical or mental impairment” that “substantially limits” one or more of that person’s “major life activities,” such as caring for one’s self, working, etc.
  • A past record of such a substantially limiting impairment
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment (even if it is not true)

Several courts have held that chemical dependence fits this definition of a disability and that individuals suffering from chemical dependence, or who are regarded as suffering from such a dependence, cannot be denied employment or housing based on this disability. It is important to understand that this does not include current substance abuse. While you may not be discriminated against because of past abuse and treatment, if you are currently found to be abusing substances you may be terminated or prosecuted. You may also not be protected if your current use of alcohol or drugs creates a “significant risk of substantial harm” to the health and safety of others.

Generally speaking, your employer cannot dismiss you or punish you for seeking treatment, but does have the right to enforce their own policies regarding illegal drug use.

Employers are also specifically charged with protecting the privacy of their employees’ medical histories. The company you work for cannot share details about your treatment with others without your consent. Basically, while it is none of their business what happened during your treatment, or how you are currently feeling about your recovery process, employers are allowed to use enforcement tactics such as random drug testing. You have a basic right to privacy, but not to continue to abuse illegal substances.

The Federally Recognized Importance of Treatment

The government, the entire health care industry and most reputable employers recognize the value and importance of addiction treatment. Without professional treatment most addicts will continue to relapse. By entering rehab, however, addicts find healing for both the obvious addiction issues, and the underlying or co-occurring emotional disorder that drugs or alcohol are medicating. Regulating agencies have gone to great lengths to protect your right to such treatment. Modern rehabilitation is highly effective. The best programs use the following elements to help addicts recover from addiction physically and psychologically:

  • Individual counseling (various types)
  • Support group meetings
  • Medically supervised detox
  • Education
  • Awareness and coping skill development
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Relapse awareness and prevention

Rehab helps you become emotionally and physically healthy. It provides you with the tools necessary for bringing healing to your relationships. It equips you with the skills necessary for thriving in life. In the process it will make you a better worker and citizen. Experts understand that having access to counseling and treatment is critically important.

24 Hour Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Helpline

If you have additional questions about your rights related to addiction recovery treatment and privacy, or would like more information about effective rehab programs, please call our toll-free helpline right now. Regardless of the day or hour our staff members are standing by with free, no-strings-attached answers and assistance. From insurance coverage issues and referrals to the best program for your specific needs, to information about employee rights and post-treatment legal options, we’re here to point you in the right direction.

Don’t let a fear of reprisal, or a nosy boss, keep you from getting the help you need and deserve. Call now.