Deciding to attend treatment for a substance use disorder is the best decision you can make for yourself. However, this choice can be a great source of anxiety and fear. You may be worried that you will lose your job or get fired if you take time off to attend addiction treatment.
Thankfully, there are a few laws that can protect you from being fired for going to rehab. Laws and protections have been put in place to ensure that people like you do not get discriminated against or wrongfully terminated for seeking the help you need. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protect you from being fired for going to rehab.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that protects you from being wrongfully terminated for needing to take time off to go to an addiction treatment program. According to the United States Department of Labor, qualified employees of eligible employers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in one year to take care of family or health concerns. Thankfully, this includes taking time off for addiction treatment.
You must qualify for the FMLA to use it for unpaid leave. Thankfully, this law covers most people who work in the United States for private and public employers with more than 50 employees. You qualify for the FMLA if you:
- Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (non-consecutively)
- Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
- Are employed at a job site that employs 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius
You may be wondering about the exact conditions the FMLA protects. If you meet the above criteria, you can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the following reasons:
- The birth of a child or to care for a newborn baby
- Caring for an adopted child or foster care child within one year of placement
- Caring for your spouse, child, or parent who struggles with a serious health condition
- Seeking treatment for a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform the essential duties of your job
When the FMLA refers to a “serious health condition” this includes a substance use disorder, as it is considered a mental health condition that requires professional inpatient treatment. In other words, the FMLA prevents you from being fired for going to rehab.
Understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
If you do not meet the criteria for the FMLA, there is another law that protects you from being fired for going to rehab. This law is known as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal law that prevents employees from being fired due to discrimination against disabilities, which includes drug addiction.
It is important to note that if you are using substances while you are working, your employer can still fire you for breaking company rules. The only thing that the ADA or FMLA protects you from is being fired for attending treatment.
For example, if you are planning to take 4 weeks of vacation to attend substance abuse treatment, your employer cannot fire you as this would be considered discrimination under the ADA.
Talking to Your Employer About Attending Rehab
If you decide to use the FMLA to protect yourself against being fired for going to rehab, the procedure requires that you notify your employer. This can be scary, as no one wants to tell their employer that they are seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. However, planning what to say can take away some of the anxiety you are facing.
When speaking to your employer about taking leave for rehab, you should:
- Explain to your boss that you have a medical condition that requires inpatient medical treatment
- Let your employer know how important your job is to you by explaining that your treatment will help you perform better at work
- Be upfront about your medical condition and be prepared to show medical records proving your need for treatment
- If your employer is telling you that you cannot take time off of work, let them know that you have looked into the FMLA and ADA
- Apologize to them for any scheduling inconveniences and explain that you will be a better employee due to the treatment you will receive
If your employer is hesitant to provide you with full leave, you may want to consider outpatient treatment. If you think that attending a treatment program on an outpatient basis will benefit your recovery, this could allow you to continue working on a part-time basis. However, if you require inpatient treatment you should continue to advocate for yourself using the guidelines from the FMLA and ADA.
Things to Consider About Addiction and the Workplace
While you cannot get fired for going to rehab, there are certain circumstances that the FMLA and ADA do not protect against. For example, using drugs or alcohol at the workplace could still get you fired if your employer has proof.
Some of the situations where you could still be fired include:
- You have shown up drunk or high to your workplace
- You have been caught using drugs or alcohol at the workplace
- Your addiction has caused you to miss a considerable amount of work
- Your job performance is not meeting job-mandated levels
- You caused an accident at work where you or other employees were injured due to your substance abuse
- You failed a drug test after causing an accident at work
- In the past or present, your substance abuse has caused you to become aggressive or abusive towards other staff members
Additionally, if you work for a small business you may not be covered by the FMLA. Thankfully, the ADA does prevent you from being fired for attending addiction treatment. Keep this in mind if you suffer from substance abuse and work for a small business.
Attending Addiction Treatment as a Professional
If you or a loved one suffer from drug addiction and are concerned about losing your job, Moving Mountains is here to help. You are protected under the FMLA and ADA, allowing you to keep your job while you receive the support and professional treatment you need.
If you are a professional who struggles with addiction, know that there is help available with your unique needs in mind. A drug and alcohol rehab center for professionals can help you get sober discreetly while also enabling you to manage your job with your recovery.
Contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today to learn more about your treatment options.