When the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993, it offered essential protections for families across the country. Many people only think of family planning or caring for loved ones when they discuss the law. In reality, it protects employees in many other circumstances as well. In fact, FMLA for addiction treatment is available under the statute.
At Olympus Recovery, we focus on helping our clients overcome addiction and any co-occurring disorders they may live with. And in doing so, we want to ensure there’s as little negative impact on their lives as possible. This means we work to make sure everyone understands their rights with FMLA for addiction. If you have questions, contact us immediately for guidance.
What Are FMLA Requirements for Addiction?
You may wonder whether there are any special healthcare conditions you must meet for drug rehab to fall under the FMLA. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Even without diagnosed co-occurring disorders, the medical community and law both view addiction as a serious health concern. And under the FMLA, you’re protected when seeking treatment for such issues.
Just because you can use FMLA for addiction, though, doesn’t mean you will qualify. In order to have protection under the statute, your employer must fall into one of the following categories:
- Private employer with at least 50 employees
- Government agencies (local, state, and federal)
- Public and private elementary and secondary schools
Fortunately, many Americans work for such employers. When seeking FMLA for addiction treatment, though, you must also meet a few criteria. First, you need to have had the job for at least 12 months. You must also have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the preceding 12 months. Finally, your employer must have at least 50 workers within 75 miles of your worksite.
If you fall into this category, the FMLA entitles you to unpaid leave while maintaining your work health insurance. This means you can enter treatment — or even take time off to care for family when a loved one enters treatment — without fear of losing your job or insurance. The FMLA for addiction is one of the best tools available for fighting substance abuse disorders.
Exceptions to the FMLA for Addiction
While the FMLA protects you when seeking treatment for addiction, it’s not an all-encompassing law for any related issues. In fact, informing your employer that you want to use FMLA for addiction could result in your termination. Fortunately, there are effective ways around this. Contact us at Olympus Recovery to learn more.
Until then, keep in mind the following specific situations. In both cases, your boss could legally fire you.
Non-Discriminatory Drug Policies in Place
If your employer has a zero-tolerance policy for drug use, revealing your addiction could lead to termination. This is only the case, however, if they apply the policy in a non-discriminatory manner. If they’re consistent in firing anyone who uses drugs while employed, though, they are likely well within their rights to end your tenure with the company.
Fortunately, there are ways around this.
Addiction Affects Your Job Performance
The FMLA protects you when seeking medical treatment in drug rehabilitation programs. It doesn’t shield you, however, from the consequences of negative work performance. If you have violated company policy — such as by missing work, acting inappropriately, or endangering yourself on the job due to drug use — your employer can fire you on this basis.
“Can I Get FMLA for Addiction Without Getting Fired?”
Since revealing your addiction to a manager can lead to termination, it may seem like you have no recourse. Fortunately, this is not the case. The FMLA protects you when seeking leave for a covered reason, but other healthcare laws also protect your private medical information. You don’t have to reveal why you need FMLA leave, only that your condition is covered by the FMLA.
How to Get FMLA for Addiction and Mental Health
Seeking an extended leave from work can be intimidating. People often feel strange even asking for time off they’ve earned during the year, so it’s no surprise that seeking FMLA for addiction treatment can feel terrifying. When going through this process, though, it’s important to remember you’re within your rights.
The following steps should help you through the process. While this may seem daunting, it’s necessary to get on the road to recovery. Your job can wait awhile, but your health may not have that luxury.
- Speak to your doctor: Before you can seek leave under the FMLA, you need a medical diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
- Immediately notify your employer: Under the FMLA, you need to notify your employer as soon as possible. You’ll ideally provide them with 30 days notice to decrease hardships, but if an emergency arises, just let them know promptly.
- Provide your employer with information: You need to let your employer know the FMLA covers your leave. They don’t need to know that you’re entering substance abuse treatment — only that your doctor has stated that you need time off work for treatment.
- Continue communication: While FMLA for addiction treatment is covered under the law, remember that you still have to work with your employer when you return. Don’t leave them “high and dry.” Keep them in the loop about your potential return date.
If you qualify for the FMLA, these steps will safeguard your job while you seek treatment for addiction and any co-occurring disorders. Start planning to take these steps immediately. If substance abuse affects your job prior to entering treatment, there’s no guarantee you’ll have protection.
More important than that, however, is that starting rehab as quickly as possible will improve your odds of continued recovery.
Do You Meet FMLA Requirements for Drug Rehab?
If you’re wondering if the Family Medical Leave Act protects you during drug rehab, the answer is typically “yes.” The FMLA can even safeguard your job if you need to care for family members due to a loved one going to rehab. Since not all employers will be supportive of your health needs, though, it’s important to seek guidance for FMLA protection.
At Olympus Recovery, our goal is to ensure each of our clients gets the help they need with minimal effect on their lives. Our counselors can walk you through securing FMLA for addiction treatment — and even help you better understand what to expect from recovery. Contact us today to learn how we can help you get your life back on track.
Department of Labor
Cornell Law School