Should I Tell My Employer about My Substance Use Disorder? December 4th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Should I Tell My Employer about My Substance Use Disorder?

Should I Tell My Employer about My Substance Use Disorder?

Woman reassuring man

According to U.S. News and World Report, 76 percent of those who have a substance use disorder are employed. Naturally, many of them are reluctant to tell their employers about their substance use because they are afraid it will jeopardize their job or career. What are the benefits and drawbacks of telling an employer about your substance use disorder?

Employers Can Be a Resource for Those Struggling With Addiction

While many people focus on the negative aspects of telling an employer about an addiction, there are definite positives to consider as well. Telling an employer about your addiction can give them a reason for behavior that could otherwise lead to the possibility of losing your job and can also give them a reason not to fire you if you show that you are getting help.

Many employers participate in employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide helpful services to employees with an addiction, including referrals to treatment, assistance with figuring out benefits and which treatment programs will be covered, and even short-term treatment and counseling. EAPs are confidential, so supervisors and co-workers may not even have to know the specifics of your situation as you figure out how to keep your job and go to rehab.

Employers by law cannot discriminate against you because of an addiction, which should prevent you from losing your job if you tell about your addiction. If you do get fired after revealing your addiction, you have options for legal recourse if you choose to take them. Most employers know the law and follow it, which means you have nothing to worry about in this situation.

Older man reassuring young man

Talking to an employer about your addiction can be difficult, but many employers will support you and help you get treatment.

Possible Drawbacks of Telling an Employer About Your Addiction

It is possible that your employer will not follow the laws about discrimination, and you will lose your job if you tell them about your addiction. If there are other grounds for firing you, your employer may use them to do so even if the real reason is the addiction, and you will not be able to hold them accountable because of the other circumstances.

It may be helpful to look at your employer’s drug and alcohol policy in order to determine whether they are likely to be supportive if you do tell them about your addiction. Finding out how other situations involving addiction were handled may also give an indication of how yours might be received.

While legal options do exist if your employer reacts badly (and illegally) to the news, a lawsuit can take years to litigate and may interfere with attempts to get treatment or bring additional stress when you do not have the resources to deal with it.

Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to be honest whenever possible, and it is a small minority of cases in which an employer will violate the law and engage in discrimination against you for your addiction.

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers Colorado addiction treatment resources and programs to fit individual needs, including continuing employment during and/or after treatment.  Contact us to find out how we can help!


Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.