(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
It used to be that when people thought of someone struggling with addiction or alcoholism, they pictured a hobo with patchy clothes drunk under a bridge or blacked out in an alley somewhere. Now, after years of watching our stigmas be proven wrong over and over again, we thankfully have a more realistic image.
These days it is not all the uncommon to imagine that people struggling with substance use disorders do actually have jobs. In fact, most people who struggle with addiction are middle-age, middle-class Americans who have careers or trades. What is called the ‘functioning addict’ often flies under the radar, paying the bills and taking care of their responsibilities, although maybe not as well as they imagine.
So with such a high percentage of the working population struggling with substance use disorder, how should employers be addressing addiction in the workplace? Here are 7 suggestions for the employer who might have to deal with addiction in the workplace.
1. Have a policy and enforce it
The first way for employers to address addiction in the workplace should be a given; have a policy in place for drugs and alcohol.
By establishing the workplace policies and expectations related to drugs and alcohol, having them in writing and explaining them clearly to your staff. You have already set a boundary. As an employer it is up to you to let your staff know what your expectations are and what you will and won’t tolerate.
Then, once the policy is in place, follow through with it. You are able to address substance use as a whole by implementing policies on drugs and alcohol and then committing to those guidelines.
2. Avoid enabling
By establishing a drug and alcohol policy an employer is already setting up the groundwork to help them avoid enabling. Those policies will hold not just your employees accountable, but also they will hold you accountable.
Employers, managers and supervisors should avoid enabling addiction in the workplace with actions like:
- Lending money to an addicted employee
- Covering up for the employee
- Giving the employee’s work to others
- Trying to counsel the employee without a professional
Families and loved ones are always warned about the risks of enabling someone struggling with addiction, the same goes for their bosses. If you have an employee who is struggling do not make excuses for them. It doesn’t serve the company, and it definitely doesn’t serve their best interests either.
3. Schedule a meeting
When an employer is concerned about an employee who may be struggling with drugs or alcohol try not to address it over a phone call or an email. Take a more hands-on approach, it is just good leadership. Schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Supervisors should review signs of abuse with an Employee Assistance Program (EPA) counselor before meeting with the employee.
An employer or supervisor should notify the individual of a place and time to have a meeting for discussing the employee’s performance. The supervisor should plan to hold the meeting in a private setting, so not to spread someone’s personal business around the workplace.
4. Keep it professional
It is very important that when addressing the individual you do your best to be professional without making the conversation too personal. Instead, the employer or supervisor should keep the focus of the meeting on the employee’s job performance. Make it clear that if they do not correct their performance issues they may face discipline or termination.
Even if you have a good relationship, setting boundaries is important when dealing with a work-related issue concerning drugs or alcohol. It is best to not directly address the substance abuse in question, unless they have been obviously impaired on the clock.
Then suggest the employee to the EAP. While an employee cannot be forced to use EAP services, you can strongly encourage them to take those steps.
5. Expect Resistance
Denial is a common reaction for someone confronted with their substance abuse. Remember their resistance isn’t just about their addiction in the workplace; they may still be dealing with that denial within themselves. Accepting that drugs or alcohol are a serious problem is not an easy admission to make for most people.
If the employee is denying their addiction in the workplace and refusing to seek or accept help from EAP, be ready for it. Whoever supervises this employee should continue to document any and all issues with that individual. If necessary, be prepared to follow through with disciplinary action. Stay consistent. It may help them realize how their substance use is impacting their work before it is too late.
If an employee has been intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at work an employer may consider holding an intervention with colleagues, coworkers or other people close to the individual. While this may not always be appropriate, it is still an option.
Most of us are familiar with the concept. With an intervention all people involved confront the addicted employee about their drug or alcohol use, but not to punish or scrutinize. Remember the purpose of an intervention is to encourage them to seek professional help.
If choosing to stage an intervention, remember there are trained professionals who should lead a work-based intervention. An employer or supervisor should not lead the intervention.
For more information on how to stage a work-based intervention contact an EAP counselor.
7. Offer support
Now just because we have suggested being a professional doesn’t mean we are suggesting not being compassionate. You may have a close relationship with a lot of your staff. As a supervisor you may have cultivated a teamwork culture that is result driven and supportive, so support your team members.
One of the best things an employer can do to help employees with substance abuse problems is to offer comprehensive health plans that cover all stages of treatment for substance use disorders. Some of the best healthcare plans for your employees will cover:
- Educating employees on the dangers of abusing alcohol and drugs
- Addiction treatment
If you want the people on your team to get help when they need it, also be willing to show your support when they reach out for it.
Of course if the employee is displaying erratic or disruptive behavior, or intoxicated in the workplace, than an employer will want to contact EAP services to alert them of the situation. After this, depending on the context you may send an employee home or place them on leave or suspension. Whatever you do, document every incident and subsequent action. Some may require drug testing. Make sure to adhere to your own policies.
At the end of the day, the employer should be motivated by the chance to help an employee struggling with addiction in the workplace to get the help they need to get better. If you want your team to be as healthy and productive as possible than you should be willing to support them in any way you can. Be sure to stay accountable and committed to your staff. They make it all possible.
Addiction does not care about your job title. Plenty of professionals experience serious substance use disorder, everyone from an intern to a CEO. Palm Healthcare offers assistance to employers and their employees when it comes to initiating the treatment process. Our addiction specialists and case managers are just one part of a compassionated staff thoroughly trained to navigate the process so that professionals seeking help can do so effectively. If you or someone you know is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
With the nation in the midst of an opioid epidemic, it is more important than ever to understand that substance use disorder is rampant partially because it is extremely difficult for more people to overcome. Out of the estimated 22.7 million Americans who desperately need addiction treatment, only around 2.5 million of them actually received treatment in a facility. But this is largely because a lot of people are afraid to ask for help.
One of the primary reasons so many people don’t seek the help they need is because they fear how it may reflect on them in their professional life.
Fortunately, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides some assistance and protections to people who need help with addiction treatment.
So how does FMLA cover addiction treatment, and how do you get the help you need?
The Family and Medical Leave Act
On February 5, 1993 then President Bill Clinton signed the bill establishing the Family and Medical Leave Act as a United States federal law. FMLA requires covered employers to provide their employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. The situations that fall under this coverage include:
- Personal or family illness
- Family military leave
- Foster care placement of a child
FMLA is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. This act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to attend to any of the qualifying circumstances. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must:
- Have been at the business at least 12 months
- Work at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
- Work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles
Four states have passed laws requiring paid family and medical leave:
- 2002- California
- 2008- New Jersey
- 2013- Rhode Island
- 2016- New York in 2016
Washington State approved paid family and medical leave in 2007, but the law has not taken effect due to a lack of funding.
In any case it is important to remember that every state has different provisions regarding FMLA. Be sure to try and reach out to your Human Resources department and a legal professional to find out what options are available in your state.
Does FMLA Cover Addiction Treatment?
If you are seeking help for substance use treatment, it is covered under FMLA. With FMLA, after returning to work from addiction treatment you must be restored to your original job or an equivalent position. In other words, financial punishment from your employer is prohibited. Therefore, the individual will receive no loss of pay or benefits and terms of the previous position will be honored. Even if you are entitled to a bonus before FMLA leave, the bonus will still apply.
ATTENTION: FMLA Does NOT Protect Everything
For one, an employee can still be terminated regardless of whether he or she is presently taking FMLA leave depending on if your employer has an established policy that:
- Is applied in a non-discriminatory manner
- Has been communicated to all employees
- Provides under certain circumstances an employee may be terminated for substance abuse
So be sure to evaluate your employers drug and alcohol policy carefully before asking for FMLA leave.
What If You’re Still Worried?
The truth is, with HIPPA laws, you can keep the reason WHY you are filing for FMLA leave private. When you apply for FMLA with your employer, you’re only need to tell them you are ill and unable to meet the conditions of your job at this time. You can say that you need to get medical treatment for your condition. That is all.
Legally, an employer cannot force you to provide any more information than you are comfortable with, although they may require a doctor’s certification that you need medical treatment. You can have FMLA cover addiction treatment as long as it is provided by a health care provider, or they can refer you to a specialized treatment provider of health care services.
In order to be protected by FMLA you must provide your employer with prior notice, or else you may still face termination.
Be aware, this does not mean that if you are using the substance and chose to take time off because of its adverse side effects, this is not covered by FMLA. In other words, absence for addiction and not for treatment does not qualify for FMLA leave.
FMLA Does NOT Cover Active Addiction
This is an important aspect to remember about the FMLA laws. While you are provided some protection in order to take leave for treatment, it does not protect you from the consequences of active addiction.
Termination due to inappropriate behavior on the job site is not protected. Neither is absenteeism due to active addiction. FMLA does not allow you to take time off because you are too drunk or too sick from withdrawals while waiting to go to treatment.
For example: If you seek help for alcohol addiction and file for FMLA leave for addiction treatment, but you miss work for a few days before leave because of heavy drinking, those few days are not protected because they don’t count as part of the FMLA leave. So be careful not to get too far ahead of yourself if you are planning on utilizing FMLA to get the much needed help.
Why It Matters
So why does FMLA cover addiction treatment at all?
One of the main reasons that substance use disorder is protected by the government is because the National Institute on Drug Abuse states:
“Drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatment that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.”
Addiction is classified as a disease and qualifies as a serious health condition that needs healthcare treatment. This shows that the government acknowledges the difficulties faced by individuals who become addicted to drugs, and the importance of supporting them in getting better by offering some protection for their careers and financial futures.
It is important that employers honor FMLA because it allows for a healthier and more effective workplace, while also giving someone who has already become part of the business to better themselves. This all matters because you never know when a member of your staff could need support for a drug and/or alcohol problem. It isn’t always the slacker. A lot of times it is the employee of the month.
It matters because even for the deal makers, the self-starters and the top performers, sometimes we all need help.
Recovering from substance use disorder can be a lot work on its own. To have FMLA cover addiction treatment and to know that you can work on bettering yourself and get back to making a living secure in a career can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398