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Understanding a Return-to-Work Agreement After Rehab

A Return to Work Agreement

Addiction does not just affect a person’s health. It can lead to problems in several aspects of a person’s life, including their job.

Addiction in the workplace can be a big problem for both the employee and the employer. It may lead to lower production for the company and could even get the employee fired. For many business owners, it may be easier to keep an experienced employee rather than try to find and train a new one. So if their employee goes to a partial hospitalization program or other treatment program and gets sober, it is worth it to take them back on, but there is a fear that the employee could relapse. In order to protect the company, some businesses will use a return-to-work agreement after rehab.

What Is a Return-to-Work Agreement?

A return-to-work agreement, also called a last chance agreement or even a firm choice agreement, is a legal contract between the recovering addict and their employer about drug and alcohol use in the workplace. A return-to-work agreement is usually implemented when an employee returns to the company after Illinois addiction treatment. While the exact make-up of a return-to-work agreement after rehab varies, many will prohibit the use of drugs or alcohol on the job or at the workplace. Some will outline other expectations and requirements as well. These documents often include consequences for violating the agreement, which may give the employer grounds to fire the employee.

ADA vs. Return-to-Work Agreement

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers a substance use disorder a disability and may be able to protect an employee’s job while they are in treatment. This means that employers cannot discriminate against someone who is in an outpatient program at our Chicago drug rehab or participating in another form of treatment for their addiction. It does not protect someone who is currently engaging in illegal drug use, but it may protect those who are in recovery and no longer using these drugs. The ADA also prevent employers from discriminating against people who have a history of drug addiction so long as they are still sober.1 While the ADA focuses on discrimination and protecting the employee, the return-to-work agreement focuses on ensuring that the employee remains sober and protects the employer.

Return to Work Agreement & Relapse

While a return-to-work agreement can protect the employer, it can also keep the recovering addict accountable and help ensure that they stay on the right track after treatment. That being said, relapse is a part of the recovery process for many, so a return-to-work agreement after rehab can sometimes be problematic. Depending on the exact terms of the agreement, it could spell trouble for your job. It is important to discuss your options and get clarity on the terms before signing the agreement.

Addiction is a unique experience for everyone, so your return-to-work agreement after rehab should be specific to you. If you are in recovery, you may want to get your recovery team involved in this contract, if possible, to set realistic expectations. This involvement can ensure that everyone is on the same page. Your company may not have a lot of experience with these agreements or understand addiction in the way that your recovery team does. If you believe that you have been unlawfully fired or have legal concerns regarding a return-to-work agreement, consult an attorney.

Tips for Going Back to Work After Rehab

Signing a drug and alcohol return-to-work agreement is only one step in the journey. It is still crucial for the individual in question to focus on themselves. Maintaining their sobriety while working in a professional setting does not have to be difficult. It can certainly be an adjustment, but it is far from impossible with the right type of support and guidance.

Know Your FMLA Rights

If you require inpatient or ongoing treatment for substance abuse, the time you take off work could be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This means your employer couldn’t do anything that would work against you because of work absences. People who care for someone undergoing addiction treatment can also benefit from FMLA. However, keep in mind this act doesn’t protect you from getting fired if your work absence is a result of substance abuse. The FMLA will only cover you if you’re undergoing an inpatient or ongoing addiction program.

At Banyan Treatment Centers Chicago, we provide several levels of care to help people overcome substance abuse. In our programs, patients will receive addiction treatment that meets their needs and provides them with the tools to help them safely recover. By receiving the proper treatment, addicts can prevent future health problems and improve their lives.

Know What to Say at Work

Returning to work after drug rehab can be awkward, and many people feel embarrassed about receiving treatment -- you don’t have to feel this way. There are lots of people who have undergone addiction treatment and returned to work. You are your toughest critic; don’t focus on what other people think, but on what’s best for you and your sobriety. You can avoid awkward moments or questions by knowing what to say and how much you want to share.

Plan for Stressful Situations

Being stressed at work is very common and often unavoidable. That’s why you should have a plan for coping with stressful situations. Having a solid plan can help you avoid any triggering thoughts or behaviors that could lead to relapse. Taking five minutes to cool down, or going outside to get some fresh air, can help reset your mind and prepare you to calmly find a solution.

Receive Aftercare Treatment

Recovery is a lifelong process, and sobriety is a choice you have to make every day. Many people who have completed treatment attend therapy or programs that provide group support and encouragement in recovery. Our alumni program serves as a safe place where patients can receive peer support to help them stay sober.

Be Patient With Yourself

Recovering from addiction is not a one-day thing. Things worth doing take time and effort, but they also require lots of patience. Pushing yourself to do things you aren’t comfortable with can lead to setbacks instead of progress in your recovery. Make sure you’re emotionally and physically prepared to go back to work before attempting to do so, and be patient with yourself when you do.

At Banyan’s Chicago addiction treatment center, we help people find lasting sobriety so that they can go back to work and be productive members of society.

If you or someone you love is battling a substance abuse disorder, get help now. Call us today at 888-280-4763.



  1. USCCR - Chapter 4 Substance Abuse under the ADA

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Understanding a Return-to-Work Agreement After Rehab
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