One of the biggest hurdles that people have when they’re preparing to enter a drug rehab center is knowing how to tell their employer. Many people believe that they are essentially admitting to a crime that could get them fired, even if they are actively seeking treatment. Even if an employer doesn’t have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol, it’s easy to get worried about what your employer and coworkers might think about you if they know that you’re battling an addiction.

If you have a substance abuse problem and you plan to check into a rehab center for treatment, the bad news is that you will have to tell your employer. It’s a conversation that simply can’t be avoided. The good news is that you almost certainly won’t suffer any consequences for it. Addiction is a valid disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means you cannot be fired from your job for entering rehab. You are also allowed to take up to 12 weeks off from work unpaid without losing your job under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

As long as your employer follows the letter of the law and understands that you are trying to overcome your addiction, you shouldn’t have anything to fear. That doesn’t mean that telling your employer what’s going on isn’t going to be stressful. If you’re still dreading the conversation that you need to have, here are some tips that you might find useful.

First of all, you will need to prepare yourself before your conversation. This means reading over your employer’s drug use policy and knowing what consequences you could face should you continue to use your drug of choice while you’re employed. You can find this information in the employee handbook that you were hopefully given when you were first employed.

Secondly, you should always be honest about your addiction and your treatment. As we’ve said many times in this post, you will have nothing to fear as long as you make it clear that you are seeking treatment. Speaking of which, you should also not be afraid that you will gain a bad reputation with your coworkers or your employer because of your addiction. People don’t develop substance abuse problems overnight. It’s a gradual process, one that your employer and coworkers have probably noticed. Letting your employer know that you’re seeking treatment will let them know that your health and job performance will almost certainly improve.

Finally, know your rights. We’ve already talked about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. You have the right to remain employed and not be punished for seeking treatment, and you should let your employer know if they threaten to fire you for essentially seeking treatment for a legitimate medical condition.

Once you’ve let your employer know about your addiction and your upcoming treatment, your next step will be to prepare for your absence. Even though your job will be waiting for you when you get out of rehab, your work responsibilities will still need to be covered while you are gone. Speak to your employer and possibly the coworkers who have the same duties as you about how they will perform your duties. You will also need to remember that you may not have a steady paycheck coming to you if you are entering an inpatient treatment program. Most of these programs last about a month, which isn’t that long, but you don’t want your financial responsibilities to fall by the wayside too much. Make arrangements to have your bills be paid while you are gone, even if that means dipping into any savings that you might have to do so.

Overall, the most important thing to remember when you have to speak to your employer about an upcoming rehab program is that you are actively trying to get healthy. Addiction is a medical condition that almost always requires treatment, and you shouldn’t let anybody tell you otherwise. A good employer will never hold that against you.

If you’re still concerned that you could be punished for checking into rehab to treat an addiction, you can always contact our treatment center for advice on what to do. Our staff is available 24 hours a day, and they will be happy to answer your questions and put your mind at ease.