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Can You Lose Your Job When You Go To Rehab?

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

March 5, 2019

One of the biggest concerns for a person struggling with addiction is entering rehab and how it might affect their work life. Though it may be difficult to have a discussion about addiction with an employer, it can help give an individual peace of mind about job security. There are also a few regulations that may be able to help an individual seek treatment without having to worry about losing their job.

The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

According to the United States Department of Labor, FMLA “Entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” Under the terms of the FMLA, alcoholism and addiction are legitimate health-related reasons for a time off request. Generally an employer doesn’t need to know the specifics of your case, just that you’ll be taking a health-related leave that involves a hospital stay. To qualify for FMLA, you must be work for a business with 50 or more employees, and have worked there for at least 12 months.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Another option, if you qualify for it, is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA guidelines, an employee is protected from discrimination if that employee has a disability and both alcoholism and drug addiction are considered by this Act to be disabilities. Although the ADA pertains only to those employed by companies with more than 15 employees, it’s helped many Americans address their addictive behavior without losing their job.

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Knowing The Facts

There are other things to remember about addiction and the workplace. While it may be difficult to go to your boss about addiction issues, being prepared and knowing your rights as well as the specifics of your health care coverage, will help you feel more confident. Employers are all within their rights to issue random drug tests, and if you’re found with illegal substances at work, if your habits or behavior breaks company policy or endangers anyone, you run the risk of having your employment terminated.

Interestingly enough, there are often different policies regarding alcoholism and drug addiction. If you continue to perform your duties well and are not harming anyone or company property, you’re not likely to be fired, even if you haven’t entered treatment yet. This isn’t true of people suffering from drug addiction. Alcohol is legal, but using illegal substances is breaking the law no matter the consequences.

Talk To Someone

It can be hard to admit you have a problem with addiction, and even harder to talk to your boss about it. In order to overcome addiction, however, sobriety must come first, and an upfront approach will make it easier down the road. You may be surprised by how receptive people are. Most employers want their workers to be more productive, and it’s hard to do that when you’re struggling with addiction. It’s in the best interest of your boss to encourage you to get help if you need it. There are always going to be those who don’t think this way, but a majority of employers tend to.

We can help, too! If you or a loved one is thinking of going to rehab but isn’t sure how it will impact their job, contact us today at We have trained professionals standing by that can guide you on your path to better health, recovery, and productivity.

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