Can I Use FMLA for Rehab?

What is FMLA for Rehab? People who have substance abuse problems need to seek professional treatment in order to get better. However, there are multiple factors that prevent some individuals from getting the help they need.

For example, some can’t enter inpatient rehab because of a lack of childcare options. Others fear they will be shunned by their families if they admit to having a substance abuse problem. Meanwhile, some people fear they’ll lose their jobs or ruin their careers if they enroll in rehab.

What many people don’t know is that there are federal laws that protect employees from losing their jobs just because they enroll in treatment. One such law is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you’re looking into substance abuse treatment for yourself or someone you love, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the laws that protect employees.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the key things you need to know about the FMLA. This will help you or your loved one to feel a bit more comfortable about enrolling in treatment.

 Statistics on Substance Abuse Treatment

 Statistics on Substance Abuse Treatment

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics,  almost 19 million people aged 12 and older needed substance abuse treatment in 2018.

Of that number, 964,000 saw a need for treatment, and 392,000 actually sought treatment. Of the 946,000 people between the age of 12 and 17 who needed treatment, only 159,00 received it. 

Meanwhile, 5.2 million young adults aged 18 to 25 required substance abuse treatment but only 1.6 percent or 547,000 got that care. For adults aged 26 or over, 15.1 million needed treatment but only three million got it.

As you can see, there’s a huge gap between the number of people who need professional addiction treatment and the number of people who actually receive it.

Drug addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life. Without help from experts, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol experience poor physical and mental health, broken relationships, and often, ruined careers. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

People don’t have to hit rock bottom to get treatment for substance abuse problems. Every day, individuals with varying levels of addiction recover, and thanks to the FMLA, many of them are able to return to their jobs.

What is FMLA?

The FMLA is a federal law that was passed in 1993. It was designed to create a balance between the demands of the workplace and the needs of families. It allows employees to have job stability and employer-provided healthcare during personal or familial health crises. Individuals are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of reasons including:

  • The birth of one’s child
  • The placement of a foster child or adoptive child
  • Caring for a seriously ill spouse, child, parent, or another immediate family member
  • Caring for one’s own health during a serious illness

While you’re on leave, your employer has to continue providing your usual benefits. Therefore, you should still have health insurance coverage. Many people wonder if they can use FMLA for rehab.

The answer is yes. Addiction is a serious disorder that impacts physical, mental, and emotional health. Therefore, if you’re seeking addiction treatment, you are protected under the FMLA. The 12 weeks provided under the act can give you the time you need to start your recovery journey. 

You can take the 12 weeks off all at one time and attend a 12-week rehab program or possibly break it up into smaller periods. The latter option may be best if you’re participating in outpatient treatment that clashes with your working hours. If you want to take your leave in this way, your employer will have to approve it.

During this time, you should also have any other mental health conditions addressed. As long as your conditions are diagnosed by a licensed physician and they require inpatient care or ongoing treatment, the FMLA considers it a serious health condition. Many people have multiple mental health issues. When one mental health problem occurs with another, it is called a co-occurring disorder.

About 50 percent of people who are diagnosed with a mental illness also develop a substance use disorder. Similarly, many people who have substance use disorders are later diagnosed with mental illness.

Given how closely these conditions are linked, you should use your medical leave to address both. In any case, addiction treatment professionals usually assess patients to determine whether they have co-occurring disorders so they can treat both conditions at the same time.

Who is Eligible for FMLA?

You may be wondering if you’re covered under FMLA. You’re eligible if you:

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Work in an area where the employer has a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles
  • Have worked for that employer for 12 months or more non-consecutively
  • Have worked for at least 1, 250 hours during the 12 months before your medical leave

You may be wondering what’s a covered employer. Most employers are included in this category except some elected officials. Covered employers include:

  • Any local, state, or federal government agency
  • Any employer in the private sector with 50 or more employees who work for 20 or more weeks each year
  • Any public or private elementary or secondary school

If your employer falls into one of these categories, you can take time off work to get substance abuse treatment and not have to worry about losing your job specifically for this reason.

Keep in mind that each employer will have a different FMLA policy. Therefore, you may need to request leave within a certain timeframe before you enter treatment. Your employer may also ask for certification from a healthcare provider or a second or third medical opinion.

This would be at their expense. Be sure to talk to someone in your company’s human resources department or check the employee handbook to learn about the conditions for FMLA leave at your workplace.

The Relationship Between the FMLA and the ADA

The Relationship Between the FMLA and the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps to ensure that disabled workers get the same opportunities as workers without disabilities. Employers can’t legally discriminate against employees who are disabled and they must provide them with reasonable accommodations so they can carry out their duties.

You may be wondering what this has to do with addiction or drug dependence. Under the ADA, drug and alcohol addiction are considered disabilities. However, employers don’t have to accommodate employees who are recovering from substance abuse.

They can terminate or discipline an employee whose addiction interferes with their ability to carry out essential functions. They can also discipline or terminate a worker who starts using drugs or alcohol again after stopping. Under the ADA, individuals are only protected from discrimination during the hiring process.

An Employer’s Role in Treatment

It’s understandable why you may be hesitant to reveal your substance abuse problems to your employer. Drug addiction still carries a stigma and some employers aren’t particularly interested in their workers as individuals.

It is true that some employers will balk at the idea of an employee going off on leave for up to three months. However, when workers get the help they need, they’re healthier and better able to contribute to the workforce. 

The last thing an employer wants is a worker who’s under the influence on the job. By following the FMLA and giving employees an opportunity to get sober and learn how to stay sober, morale and productivity will likely increase. The employer may also help to save the employee’s life, given how deleterious the impact of addiction can be.

This doesn’t mean that your employer has to treat you like everyone else when you return from treatment. It is often recommended that companies draft a Return to Work agreement for workers who use FMLA for rehab. The outlines how individuals are expected to behave and perform once they’re sober.

How To Disclose Your Addiction to Your Employer

The hardest part of seeking treatment while maintaining your job is often talking to your employer about your addiction. However, the only way they’ll be able to accommodate you is if you’re open with them.

Rather than wait for your employer to raise concerns about your performance or fire you, you should be honest about your situation. 

People don’t recover from addiction on their own. They need a strong support system outside of the professionals involved in their care. Therefore, if you talk to your employer, they can give you the extra support you need to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Employees who receive mental health support at work are more productive, more motivated, and better able to have positive relationships with colleagues.

Before you approach your employer, you should review your company’s drug policy and seek to find out if you qualify to use FMLA for rehab. If you’re well informed before you approach your employer, they’ll see that you’re serious about getting treatment and continuing to work for the company.

Let them know that you’re ready to overcome your addiction and you need their support to get professional help.

You should request leave as far in advance of your treatment as possible and submit documentation to support your request. This documentation can be as simple as an official letter from a licensed treatment provider.

There is also information on the US Department of Labor’s website about additional documentation you can use.

Can I Be Fired Because I’m Addicted to Drugs?

This is a common question. Addiction will usually affect a person’s ability to function at work. Even if you can hide your struggle with drugs or alcohol in the early stages, you probably won’t be able to do so forever.

If you can’t perform your duties at the required standard, your employer has the right to terminate you. That’s why you should seek to leave under the FMLA to start the treatment you need. Otherwise, you could lose your job.

It’s important to note that the FMLA doesn’t cover people who are currently using drugs.  Therefore, you can’t apply for leave and then just stay at home and drink or use drugs instead of going to rehab. You need to enroll in treatment and actively participate.

You can’t lose your job because you’ve used the FMLA to get treatment, but you can be fired because you violated company policies against drug or alcohol use. This may seem like it puts you between a rock and a hard place.

However, most modern companies have policies that recognize addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing. If you admit that you have a problem, it is likely that they will give you a chance to get better.

Most employers recognize that if you give you a chance to get sober, you’ll return a better worker. They also won’t have to spend time and money on hiring someone to replace you in the long term.

Once you enter a rehab program, you may be protected by the ADA and your employer won’t be able to fire you because of your addiction or the treatment you’re undergoing.

This applies even if you must miss work. If you get fired, you can file a charge of discrimination. This applies to employees of all state and local government agencies as well as private businesses with at least 15 employees.

What You Need to Know About Confidentiality and FMLA

The thought of becoming the subject of office gossip may cause you to have second thoughts but your employer is legally required to maintain confidentiality when it comes to information about your health and treatment.

Also, your doctor and the staff at the substance abuse treatment center are not legally allowed to share your information with anyone unless it’s to provide you with care. This is all covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPAA.

As a result of this law, you don’t have to share details about your drug treatment with anyone you don’t want to. Even if a future employer carries out a background check on you, they won’t be able to see your medical records.

The only people who need details of your medical history and those involved in your treatment, and you should never withhold information from them.

Don’t Delay in Seeking Professional Help

Don’t Delay in Seeking Professional Help

If you’re an employee who is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, cocaine, prescription opioids, or any other substance, you shouldn’t delay in seeking help. The law is on your side if you want to seek treatment and then come back to your job.

You have the right to take a leave of absence so you can get help. You may not feel like you can afford to take this break but if you don’t get treatment, your very life could be in danger. By using FMLA for rehab, you can start doing the work that will prepare you for a lifetime of sobriety.

If you’re ready to get professional addiction help, contact the team at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Our luxury rehab centers in Arizona and Colorado offer a variety of treatment programs that are customized to each person’s needs.

We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs as well as partial hospitalization options. When we assess you, we’ll be able to advise you on what’s best for you.

Even if you find yourself in a situation where you are not covered by FMLA, your employer may still be willing to hold your job for you while you get treatment.

In any case, your health is more important than your job and without good health, it will be hard to go to work and perform your duties. While some people dealing with addiction remain “functional,” many people lose the ability to live normal lives while they feel compelled to use drugs or alcohol.

Admitting you need help and then taking leave from work can be difficult, but you’ll never regret taking this step. By using the FMLA for rehab, you stand a greater chance of keeping your job, doing excellent work, and increasing your overall quality of life. Your employer may be a lot more understanding than you anticipate.

We’re here for you if you’re seeking help and further treatment resources or you want to know more about using FMLA for rehab. To get started on your journey towards recovery, contact us today and talk to an expert addiction counselor.


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