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Keep Addiction Treatment Private. Your Boss Doesn’t Have To Know

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

March 4, 2019

Many individuals may not be getting the treatment that they need because they are worried about what could happen if their boss finds out about their addiction. Fortunately, there are laws that protect an individual’s privacy and allow them to seek treatment with the fear of their boss finding out or them losing their job.

As the National Institutes on Drug Abuse Explains, “It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior.” Any person struggling with addiction knows that those mistaken assumptions can do a great deal of damage. In fact, if your boss were to find out about your addiction treatment, you could be in danger of bad treatment at work, or even in danger of losing your job.

Fortunately, today’s laws are on your side when it comes to seeking addiction treatment, and you can keep it private. Your boss never needs to know why you are taking time off. There are a couple of ways in which you are protected from the release of this information.

HIPAA Patient Privacy Laws

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA, is on your side when it comes to protecting private information about your addiction treatment. Your boss cannot get information about your medical treatment, even if he knows how to contact your medical caregivers. HIPAA protects your medical records, your diagnosis, your lab work results, your other test results, your diagnostic imaging, and your prescription drug records.

Similarly, your boss cannot get access to your medical bill records, insurance company health care claim records, or any type of communication regarding your health care from any entity that has provided or will provide you with health care, including addiction treatment.

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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

While the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does contain specific verbiage that classifies recovering drug addicts and alcoholics as disabled persons, who are therefore protected from losing their jobs under the act, not everyone is comfortable with sharing the fact that they are disabled in this way with their boss.

This is absolutely understandable, and it is not necessary that you rely on the ADA for help because the Family Medical Leave Act can provide you the time off that you need to get addiction treatment without giving your boss the specifics. The FMLA provides you up to 12 weeks of leave in a year long period of time to take care of medical concerns like your addiction treatment.

There are three basic circumstances in which FMLA time can be taken away from work:

  • Childbirth or adoption
  • Care of an immediate family member
  • Care of an employee’s own serious health problem

Addiction is a serious disease that will only progress as time goes on. It is, therefore, considered to be a health condition which FMLA will cover. When you apply for FMLA with your employer, you will need only to say that you are ill and are unable to meet the conditions of your job at this time, and that you need to get medical treatment for your condition. Your boss cannot legally force you to provide any more information than you are comfortable with, although he may require a doctor’s certification that you need medical treatment and will require time away from work to get proper treatment.

Your Addiction Treatment and Your Privacy

Addiction is a disease, not something you chose to have. You are doing the right thing by recognizing the need for help. The laws in the United States are fully behind you when it comes to getting help for your addiction and protecting your privacy while you do so.

This is a personal matter that you want to take care of without adding additional worries into the mix, and it is 100 percent possible to do so. Our highly trained intake counselors can discuss treatment with you and will help you determine the best way to arrange for the time away from work.

Whether you are dealing with a family member who is struggling with addiction or you need to seek care yourself, there is a treatment plan and a haven for your recovery waiting for you. Contact us today.

View Infographic on Keeping Addiction Treatment Private.

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