Addiction Treatment and FMLA

It is difficult to overcome drug or alcohol addiction without comprehensive treatment offered at treatment centers licensed for inpatient/residential programs. For individuals who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction while maintaining a regular job, it is natural to fear the possibility of being fired for taking time off for treatment. The concern is often about the financial hardship they may face if left with no job after treatment.

Although it is not easy for anyone to speak about addiction treatment with his or her employer, for those who wish to do so it is important to know that addiction is classified as a disability and viewed as such in the eyes of the law. It means that there is the legal protection of a nondiscriminatory outlook on employees who seek addiction treatment.

For those of you who may not know the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) created in 1993 can protect individuals that need to leave work for substance abuse treatment. Under the FMLA act, employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period for any serious health condition or to care for an immediate family member suffering from a serious health condition. This includes substance abuse treatment as long as it is supported by a referral from a health care provider or a provider of health care services. Missed workdays due to employee’s use of the substance for which a proper treatment referral has not been secured does not qualify for FMLA leave.

Who is Eligible for FMLA?
Not everyone is eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act. Here are the eligibility requirements:

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Have worked for their employer for 12 months or more (non-consecutively)
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding their medical leave
  • Work at a job where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

In addition, some employers may require employees to use their paid leave for the treatment. Every state has different provisions, so it is best to discuss your specific situation with someone at the Human Resources department at your job or with a legal professional familiar with employment law. For the process to start, there are certain procedures that need to be followed to obtain the certification. For example, there are two forms, WH-380F, and WH-380E forms, that need to be signed by the treating doctor or health care provider.

Individuals who are waiting for FMLA paperwork to be processed must continue working their normal schedule as employers have the right to terminate employment for absenteeism. Provided all requirements and rules are followed, under the FMLA law, employees returning to work after rehab must be reinstated to their original job or an equivalent position. This allows returning employees not to have to worry about the loss of income and benefits while going through recovery.  Additionally, any bonus due to the employee prior to FMLA leave has to be honored upon the return of the employee.

It is worth mentioning that individuals seeking addiction treatment through an FMLA provision could still be impacted by some financial hardship, as the FMLA is unpaid leave. However, this hardship can be mitigated when the employer offers to substitute accrued paid leave (such as sick or vacation leave) for FMLA leave while the employee is in rehab for drug or alcohol addiction treatment. When this is not an option, there may be funding through private or disability insurance.

Addiction is tough, and deciding to seek treatment is a hard choice. None-the-less, individuals who are employed and are struggling with addiction will make a smart choice when they consider FMLA leave and explore the various options available to them. Thanks to FMLA leave, there have been many thousands of individuals who were able to enter a treatment program and change their lives.  They believe their recovery would not be possible if it were not because of the Family Medical Leave Act.

For information on Family Medical Leave Act or just to find out about the available options to you or someone you know who is considering entering rehab, please call our admissions office at 800-851-3291 for a free and confidential treatment consultation.