The decision to seek treatment will save your life, but going to treatment takes time. Many people worry if their jobs will be in danger if they attend treatment, but clearly, treatment will save you infinite amounts of money compared to remaining addicted. Still, it may be some relief to know that some laws are in place to help you get treatment AND keep your job.
According to the United States Department of Labor under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) full-time employees at companies who have over 50 employees in your area can be given up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave if they have a legitimate reason.
If you have not been intoxicated at work and wish to enter rehab, the fact that you will be actively participating in treatment is reason for you to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that employers cannot fire people for using their own vacation time or sick leave to pursue treatment for a medical condition. While the ADA ruling does not provide extra time off work, it does offer protection for your job if you are able to find treatment that works with your schedule and days off.
Medical Leave Basics
Who is eligible for FMLA leave?
If you work in a company that employs more than 50 people, you may be eligible for FMLA leave. Employees who have experienced the following life events:
- The birth or care of a newborn child, newly adopted child, or child from foster care in which you are the legal parent or guardian
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
- To receive treatment for a serious medical condition
You may be eligible for work leave if you have worked for your employer for a minimum of 12 months (and at least 1,250 hours within those twelve months), and your employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.1
But what if you work for a very small business?
Many states have begun to require similar laws that provide medical leave for small businesses. Each state may differ, but you may still be eligible for this leave. Beyond that, many small business employers know their employees well, and they may be willing to work with you if you demonstrate good-faith that you intend to recover and work for that recovery and better life.
Are all leaves paid?
Leaves can be unpaid or paid. It is a good idea to speak with your HR manager or boss to learn more about your leave time. You may be able to take paid vacation time to cover your recovery.
What are the reasons a person can ask for medical leave?
- Care of an immediate family member for a serious illness
- Serious health condition of the employee which prohibits them from working
What protection does a person get from this law?
For people who requested and were granted a leave the employer must return the employee back to the position in which they left (or an equivalent) with the same benefits, pay and status. In addition the employer is required to maintain the employee’s current health care plan. The law also protects employees that are on an unpaid leave by requiring the employer to pay the insurance premiums in installments while on leave or in full upon their return to work.
Can an employer fire an employee for going to rehab?
If a person chooses to enter an inpatient drug rehab program, the FMLA law protects them from being terminated.
If you are actively in treatment and have not been using substances on the job, and you have not shown up to work high or drunk, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may prevent your employer from firing you while you are seeking and participating in treatment for a medical condition.2 However, the Americans with Disabilities Act cannot grant you additional time out of work.
Why did my friend get fired?
A person can be fired if their behavior (addiction-related or not) impacts or has impacted their ability to perform their job. If a person’s addiction increased their absenteeism or decreased their work performance or caused an accident or a situation in the office, the employer has the right to follow their standard operating procedures regarding a person who is not doing their job.
How should I proceed?
Working with your employer in a constructive manner is your best bet for maintaining employment after addiction recovery. You will want to understand what your employer’s concerns may be about how your work activities will be managed while you are on leave.
You also need to have a clear understanding on how to request a leave in as seamless a manner as possible. By being upfront with your employer, you demonstrate your commitment to the company. In turn, they will hopefully realize that you are doing what is in your best interest and ultimately what is in their best interest, as well, by going into addiction rehabilitation.
Get Help Finding Treatment and Keeping Your Job
You can speak with one of our recovery professionals any time at 760-548-4032, and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have about treatment options, duration of treatment, and even how to explain your situation with your employer.
1 U.S. Department of Labor. FMLA. N.d.
2 U.S. Department of Justice. Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, Amended. N.d.