Last Updated: February 19, 2023
Using FMLA for rehab allows you to take time off work for addiction treatment while knowing your job is protected and will be waiting for you when you return.
When people are deciding whether to go away to rehab to receive addiction treatment, often one of their main concerns is if they will lose their job. While this is a valid worry, laws are in place to protect people taking time off work to attend rehab. These laws establish procedures and protections allowing you to seek recovery without fearing losing your job.
Can You Get Fired for Going to Rehab?
Your employer should not fire you simply for going to rehab on your off hours. However, you can be terminated for coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to show up for work, violating a workplace policy or if your performance suffers. Attending addiction treatment during your time off should not lead to losing your job. In fact, some laws protect your job if you choose to take time off for rehab.
Your Rights as an Employee
Three important laws can protect your job should you seek rehab. Each has different requirements to qualify for protection under the law:
- FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants job-protected leave allowing employees to seek treatment for a medical condition. While taking leave under this law is unpaid, it enables an employee to continue receiving health insurance benefits, and they can take up to 12 weeks per year while still keeping their job. A substance use disorder or addiction can qualify as a health condition allowing you to take leave without being fired.
It’s important to understand that taking FMLA leave does not mean you’ll be protected if you violate a workplace policy, such as using substances while at work. The purpose of FMLA is to help you keep your job while you’re away seeking treatment. It’s also critical to understand that to qualify, you must work for a covered employer at a location with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius and have worked at least 1,250 hours over 12 months with the employer.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures people with disabilities, including those with drug and alcohol addictions, do not experience workplace discrimination. It is important to understand that while ADA does protect current and past alcohol users, it states that protections for drug addiction only apply if a person is in recovery and not currently using illegal drugs. Much like FMLA, the ADA is not likely to stop you from being fired if you are caught using drugs at work; however, it protects you from discrimination if you stop drug use and seek treatment.
- Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act: The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act stipulates that coverage for behavioral health conditions, including substance misuse, must be equal to coverage offered for physical health conditions. This means that copays, deductibles and limits on services cannot be more restrictive for behavioral health care. This law does not require your employer-provided insurance plan to cover addiction treatment, but if the program does include this sort of care, it must be equivalent to what is covered in medical services.
How To Go To Rehab and Keep Your Job
Keeping your job while going to rehab is possible. By taking advantage of protections in the law, you can take time off while knowing your job is protected. If you’d prefer not to take time off from work for rehab, there are also flexible options available. For example, you can attend an outpatient program during the evenings and weekends, while still working during the day.
While outpatient rehab can be a convenient option for some people, for others, taking time off from work to attend an inpatient program is the best option. Inpatient rehab does take you away from work for a period, but it also removes you from stressors and triggers in your daily environment and allows you to focus solely on your recovery.
How Going to Rehab Helps Your Career
How To Prepare for Rehab When You Have a Job
You can use FMLA for rehab to take time off work without losing your job, but doing so will require some preparation. It’s important to take the proper steps, as specified by FMLA and your employer’s policies, so the law and your health insurance will cover your leave.
Telling Your Employer
According to FMLA and other legal protections, the first step in taking time off for rehab is telling your employer your intent to seek leave from work for a medical reason. In many cases, this will involve meeting with your human resources department to request the necessary paperwork and apply for FMLA. You must submit documentation from your healthcare provider demonstrating your need to take leave for an approved medical reason.
You do not need to tell your employer every detail of your situation, but you need to give them enough information proving you meet the criteria for medical leave. Consider telling them you are seeking substance use disorder treatment because you are actively recovering. Or, you might say you’re seeking inpatient medical care for a serious health condition and submit documentation from your doctor. If you have questions about your legal rights, it’s important to consult with an attorney.
Telling Your Co-workers
Whether you inform your co-workers that you are seeking addiction treatment is up to you. You might choose to share with a few trusted co-workers that you’re going to rehab, but you aren’t obligated to tell anyone. Your absence will be noticed, especially by the people you work most closely with, but they do not have a right to know your medical situation unless you want to share that information. You could tell them you’re taking time off work for a serious medical concern, but you expect to return.
Beyond telling your employer and following the proper procedures to take leave under FMLA, it’s often necessary to “tie up loose ends” before leaving for rehab. This may mean canceling scheduled meetings during your time away from the office or attempting to fit them in before you go, if feasible.
If you’re working on projects with deadlines, you’ll need to complete them or at least get to a point where you can transfer the work to someone taking over in your absence.
Returning to Work After Rehab
If you follow the correct procedures to take leave under FMLA, you can return to work after rehab. You may be required to submit a certification from your treatment center or a doctor stating that you can return to work. Once cleared to return, you can resume your regular job or an equivalent job.
Beyond the logistics of transitioning back to work, it’s important to consider that your co-workers may have questions, especially if you opted not to provide them with much information before your leave. The first question will likely be about your whereabouts for the last several weeks. It is your choice whether or not to discuss personal information. If you choose to tell your story, expect mixed reactions. Some co-workers may be supportive. Others may not.
Finally, as you transition back to work, remember you may face stress or temptations. Co-workers still using may be negative influences. You will also encounter daily stressors of dealing with deadlines, clients, customers and co-workers. Engaging in ongoing services, such as counseling or support groups in the community, is important to help you learn to cope.
About Our Rehab Near Columbus, Ohio
The Recovery Village Columbus offers a full range of addiction treatment services, including medical detox, inpatient and outpatient rehab. We are located just outside Columbus in the suburb of Groveport. Our aftercare program, among other services, helps employed individuals return to work after recovery.
If you’re struggling at work or home due to an addiction, it’s time to get your life back. Begin the admissions process with one of our Recovery Advocates.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.