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Using the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to Go to Rehab

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

Medically reviewed by

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

January 24, 2019

Millions of individuals in the United States who suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol are unable to seek treatment due to the fear of losing their job or being away from family for an extended period of time. The Family and Medical Leave Act now makes it possible for many individuals to attend treatment without the fear of losing their job or home.

What Is The Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to provide protected employees with a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks in a 12 month period for certain medical and family reasons. These medical reasons can be anything from childbirth, to personal medical emergencies, or taking care of a family member with a serious health problem.

Am I Eligible For Family And Medical Leave Act?

Eligibility for a leave of absence protected by FMLA is dependent on several different variables, and not everyone will be protected. There are certain groups of people who will be protected no matter what—these include State, local and Federal employers, and local education agencies (schools). For the rest of the population, in order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee needs to work for a covered employer and:

  • have worked for that employer for at least 12 months.
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave.
  • work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed at the location or within 75 miles of the location.
    (U.S. Department of Labor)

Do I Still Get Paid While In Rehab?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not ensure that an employee gets paid while in rehab, that’s up to the employer, but chances are they will not pay you. The point of FMLA is that a person keeps their job, or will be rehired after rehab for a similar job with equal pay. So essentially this act “provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave” (United States Department of Labor).

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Can My Employer Fire Me For Going To Rehab?

If you intend to go to rehab protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you must give your employer prior notification. If you fail to do so, you will no longer be protected, and possibly face termination from your job. So the best bet is to give your employer a sufficient notice, but these types of things can come out of nowhere—and whether drug rehab is court ordered or not it can come as a surprise.

In some cases a person can be fired from a job for going to rehab, however, an employee can not terminate a person who has opted to use FMLA to go to treatment. “If, however, the employer has an established policy, applied in a nondiscriminatory manner that has been communicated to all employees, that provides that under certain circumstances, including enrolling in a substance abuse program, an employee may be terminated for substance abuse, pursuant to that policy an employee may be terminated whether or not the employee is presently taking FMLA leave” (U.S. Department of Labor).

Why Would Addiction Treatment Be Protected?

So why would an addiction or a substance use disorder be protected by the government? There are a lot of reasons that people are protected, and first of all the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.”

Substance use disorders are when a person’s drug abuse leads to negative consequences at home, in school, or in the workplace. People are usually well intended and can be the best of employees or friends, but an addiction leads them to do things they wouldn’t normally do. In summary; people are protected, not only because they’re good people—but because addictions are categorized as diseases. There is hope for returning to work to continue on as an asset to the company.

Is Addiction Considered A Serious Health Condition?

Addiction and substance abuse are not always protected by FMLA, even though they are defined as disease and disorder and can absolutely be a serious health condition. This often depends on a company’s drug and alcohol policy. According to the United States Department of Labor, “FMLA leave may only be taken for substance abuse treatment provided by a health care provider or by a provider of health care services on referral by a health care provider. Absence because of the employee’s use of the substance, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave.”

Furthermore, “an employee may also take FMLA leave to care for a covered family member who is receiving treatment for substance abuse. The employer may not take action against an employee who is providing care for a covered family member receiving treatment for substance abuse.”

Commonly Abused Drugs

Generally, most drugs can cause an addiction which may require treatment. Some of the addictions that are most commonly treated in rehab centers are alcohol, cocaine, PCP, heroin, prescription opioids, crystal meth, ecstasy, prescription sedatives, and more. Deciding to go to rehab can be a difficult choice and you’re likely to have a lot of questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rehab

If you’re like a lot of people, you want answers before jumping headfirst into an investment. That’s exactly what going to rehab is, an investment in your future, in your recovery, and in your life. Some of the most commonly asked questions that we can help you find answers for are:

  • Is detoxification always necessary before therapy?
  • What can I expect from treatment?
  • How do I explain to my employer that I’m going to rehab?
  • How can I pay the bills while I’m in rehab?
  • Does my health insurance cover rehab?
  • How do I get a loved one into rehab?

Finding A Rehab Center That’s Right For Me

There are a lot of problems that we all run into in life, and most of us never imagined drug and alcohol addiction would be one of them. You’re certainly not alone, and we’re here to help you get through it. If you have been putting off going to rehab for fear of losing your job, you might be protected. It never hurts to talk to someone from your Human Resources Department for confidential and professional advice.

Contact us today at 888-757-5052 to speak to one of our highly qualified addiction specialists about finding the addiction treatment that’s right for you. Addiction is a dangerous road to go alone, but in recovery, you’re not alone.

United States Department of Labor - Family and Medical Leave Act

United States Department of Labor - Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor

NIDA - Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

One Response to “Using the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to Go to Rehab”

I have a very close friend who needed to use FMLA in order to go to rehab. He was in very rough shape and honestly it was the best decision he ever made. I don’t really know if he would have made it much longer if he wouldn’t have gone. He was lucky enough to work at a company that allowed it (his families business) and they knew that without it he might not have made it. Now hes a recovery addict and is still working had to stay sober but it’s nice to have the friend back that I once knew. Get article, I’ll be sure to share this with him. I know he’ll like it.

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