There are many factors that keep people from getting the substance abuse treatment that they need. For some, it may be a lack of childcare that poses a problem. For others, it may be a fear of judgment or rejection by their family. For many, the decision to enroll in a drug and alcohol rehab center is often swayed by the fear of losing employment.
Fortunately, there are federal laws in place that are designed to protect employees from being discriminated against due to a decision to enroll in a drug rehab center. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one such law.
If you are seeking substance abuse treatment for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to know your rights and be familiar with the laws that protect your employment status. In this blog, we’ll answer all your questions about the FMLA so you can confidently enroll in our drug and alcohol rehab program without the fear of losing your job.
About the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that was passed in January of 1993 and signed by President Clinton.1 The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. The employee’s health benefits must also be maintained during these 12 weeks.
Under the FMLA, you may choose to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for the following reasons:2
- To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious medical condition
- For the birth of a child and to take care of the newborn child within the first year of birth
- For the placement of a foster child and to take care of the child during the first year of placement into your family
- For a serious health condition that impacts your ability to perform the basic functions and tasks of your position
- Any qualifying demand due to fact that a spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”
You may also choose to take up to 26 weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a spouse, child, or parent who is a service member and has a serious illness or injury.
The basic principle of the FMLA is to protect the rights of employees to take reasonable leave from work for certain family and health-related reasons.3 Although this law makes it illegal for employers to take action against or deny an employee the time off for certain purposes, you must meet the eligibility requirements to take FMLA leave.
Employee Eligibility Requirements
According to the United States Department of Labor, if you would like to take FMLA leave to enroll in a drug rehab program (or for any other purpose), you must meet the following requirements:4
- You must be employed by a covered employer
- You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
- You must have at least 1,250 hours of service for your employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave
- You must work at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
Under some circumstances, you may also be able to take FMLA leave on a reduced schedule basis, which could be very advantageous for those who would like to enroll in an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab program.
Every employer’s FMLA policy is different, so your employer may require that you request your FMLA leave within a certain time frame. Your employer may also request certification from a health care provider or a second or third medical opinion, at their expense, not yours.
To determine the terms and conditions of your FMLA leave, please refer to your employee handbook or contact your Human Resources department at work.
A “covered employer” is defined by the United States Department of Labor as one that meets certain criteria. The FMLA only applies to employers who:4
- Are private-sector employers with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year
- Are public agencies (this includes a local, state, or federal government agency)
- Are public or private elementary or secondary schools
If you are unsure if your employer is a covered employer, please contact your Human Resources department for more information.
Substance Abuse Treatment
Under the FMLA, addiction and substance abuse disorders can qualify as a serious medical condition if the conditions for inpatient drug and alcohol rehab and/or continuing treatment are met.5 If you simply request leave to miss work as a result of your substance abuse, the FMLA will not protect you from any denial of leave or any negative action your employer might take as a result. However, if your absence is due to substance abuse treatment that is provided by a healthcare provider, your employer cannot take action against you.
On the other hand, if your employer has an established policy that states you may be fired due to substance abuse (whether or not you are currently on FMLA leave), your employer may be within its legal rights to terminate you. For this reason, it is very important that you review your employer’s FMLA policy before taking any action so you can understand your rights as they relate to taking time off of work for alcohol and drug rehab.
Additional Legal Protections
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are also several other federal laws that protect the employment status of people in substance abuse treatment or recovery.6 These include:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law prohibits most employers from hiring, firing, or discriminating against any qualified job applicant on the basis of disability. This may include an individual who is in treatment or recovery from a substance use disorder. The ADA also requires that employers keep all information about a past or present substance abuse disorder confidential and that they make reasonable accommodations for those individuals in treatment for their substance abuse problems, including a schedule that allows an employee to attend drug and alcohol rehab meetings. Of course, these laws only protect qualified applicants and employees who are not currently abusing any drugs or alcohol.
- Rehabilitation Act: In some cases, employees suffering from addiction or substance use disorders may qualify as disabled. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and applies to federal employers and other public and private employers who receive grants, contracts, or aid from the federal government.7
Although you may feel overwhelmed and unsure about enrolling in a drug and alcohol rehab center, we are here to assure you that there are several federal laws that are designed to protect your rights as an employee while you are seeking help for your addiction.
Please note that your employer’s FMLA policy may vary and you should always review your employee handbook or speak to a Human Resources representative before assuming anything, but if you are ready to enroll in Nova’s drug and alcohol rehab program, we are ready to help.
Please give us a call today. Our knowledgeable admissions team can answer any questions you have about the enrollment process, confidentiality, payment options and more.