Coping With Discrimination in Your Professional Life

Returning to work after rehab is a difficult process independent of workplace discrimination you may face in the office. You are a successful and competent employee no matter what other people say to or about you, but that doesn’t mean insensitive questions or rude comments don’t sting. Before you retaliate, consider your options and devise a plan based on your core values so that you can execute the plan with confidence and control.

There Are Different Ways to Stand up for Yourself

When situated in an uncomfortable or dangerous workplace environment, reflect on the specific problem or problems, your desired outcome, and potential courses of action. If you enjoy your job and do not intend to leave your company to escape the insulting behavior of a few coworkers, take a stand against the office bullies. This can take the form of confrontation, notifying a superior, or a combination of the two.

Confronting discrimination

Since entering into a recovery program, you have gained invaluable skills in stress management, conflict resolution, and self-control that will assist you in your confrontation with unacceptable office behavior. The University of California at San Diego offers tips for solving minor office conflicts with maturity. They advise that you contact the aggressor in your workplace and schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns and develop solutions to the problem. After outlining a plan of action, work together to promote open, non-discriminatory communication. In instances of extreme discrimination, such as offensive name-calling or physical harm, assess your personal safety before confronting the aggressor. Utilize the coping mechanisms you acquired in treatment to determine how best to react. Bringing the situation to the attention of a supervisor may be the most effective way to stop antagonistic coworkers and reduce workplace stigma.

Consulting a superior

Your efforts to resolve workplace discrimination without the assistance of a supervisor may prove futile if your coworker does not feel remorse or make an effort to stop harassing you. Confide in your supervisor about the situation; they will be able to direct you to an experienced Human Resources representative who will facilitate conflict resolution. If the problem persists, your employer will have grounds to fire your aggressor. 

You may find that your supervisor or employer is the perpetrator of workplace harassment. In this situation, contact the Human Resources department directly and be aware of your legal rights as an employee. 

Know Your Rights

Individuals recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, among other anti-discrimination legislation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) summarizes rights afforded by ADA: “employers cannot fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote someone simply because she or he has a history of substance use….Employers also cannot fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees merely because they are enrolled in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.” Under the FMLA, employees who have worked for a company for at least 12 months, amassing at least 1,250 billable hours during that period, are eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave to treat a personal or familial health condition. Treatment for SUD is included as an acceptable reason to request extended absence. Contact a lawyer if you plan to take legal action against your employer for discrimination.

You Deserve to Stay!

You will spend much of your time at your job. If you feel uncomfortable in your work environment but love the work that you do, you will not want to leave the company–and you shouldn’t have to! You are taking the right steps to recover from SUD and your progress deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed. When you approach inappropriate office behavior with maturity, you will be able to resolve conflict, even if that requires the dismissal of a discriminatory co worker or supervisor, and promote a healthy workplace. You may feel tempted to leave the position to escape office bullies, but you are strong enough to control the situation and reestablish boundaries and respect in the office. Nobody should be bullied, especially not for their achievements in recovery. Know your options and respond to the situation accordingly in order to create an environment that is healthy for you and all of your peers.

You are resilient and dedicated, and there are no obstacles that you cannot overcome without the proper tools and a healthy mindset. At Silver Lining Recovery, we will provide you with a holistic treatment program tailored to suit your specific needs. Our team of dedicated mental health professionals will walk with you as you take the first steps in recovery. We want you to feel confident in yourself and your sobriety inside the facility and, after completion of the program, in your social and professional spheres. If you’re interested in joining our recovery community, please call us today at (866) 448-4563 for a consultation.

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