Can You Be Fired For Going To Rehab?

Deciding whether you should enroll in a rehab program is a difficult decision for anyone, especially if you’re concerned that getting help could jeopardize your job status.

Thankfully, the United States has laws that protect people who want to attend a rehab facility for addiction without giving up their job.

United States Employment Laws Regarding Rehabilitation

Addiction is classified as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, ADA protections do not extend to a person currently using illegal drugs.

Under the ADA, an employer can fire an employee if they are using alcohol or drugs while on the job site, if substance abuse is affecting performance, or if it creates unsafe work conditions.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects people with disabilities against discrimination, especially employment discrimination.

The protections of the Rehabilitation Act extends to:

  • recruitment
  • job applications
  • hiring, promotion
  • right to return from layoff
  • rates of pay
  • leaves of absence, including sick leave or other types of leave

Several agencies work together to enforce the Rehabilitation Act and ensure anyone with a disability has equal employment opportunities.

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Individual Employer Guidelines For Extended Leave

Individual employer guidelines for extended leave vary in terms of time allowed for leave, whether it is paid or not, and the circumstances of leave.

Based on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can go to a rehab center without losing their job.

The employer is allowed to request:

  • information about the medical necessity of the leave
  • an estimate of the level of incapacity due to the health condition
  • an estimate of dates and duration of treatment
  • estimation of the recovery period

Privacy Laws And Confidentiality Clauses

The main federal laws regarding the confidentiality of medical information are the ADA and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

The ADA requires employers to keep the confidentiality of employee medical information from an examination or injury.

Employers are also required to maintain medical records separately from the employee’s general file and restrict access to the medical records.

HIPAA requires employers to maintain the confidentiality of employee medical records from a health group plan. This information is usually obtained through claims to insurance.

Several states have their own confidentiality rules for employee medical information that can potentially be more restrictive than the ADA or HIPAA.

Requesting Leave To Attend A Rehab Program

Substance use disorders are considered a serious medical condition under FMLA.

You can claim FMLA for addiction treatment as long as you meet the eligibility requirements and your company has 50 or more employees.

To request FMLA leave, the employee must:

  • have worked at the company for at least 12 months
  • have worked 1250 or more hours in those 12 months
  • be diagnosed with a substance use disorder

To request FMLA leave to start an addiction recovery program:

  • notify your employer 30 days before leave
  • complete the appropriate forms
  • submit the forms to your employer
  • the employer submits the forms to the healthcare provider
  • the healthcare provider completes a section of the form and returns it to you
  • submit the form to your employer’s insurance

The insurance provider must pay or deny the leave request within 18 days of getting your application.

Requesting Legal Guidance

Treatment for substance abuse disorders doesn’t always prevent an employer from taking action against the employee.

The employer may not take action if the employee uses FMLA leave for rehabilitation.

However, if the employer has a specific policy that covers substance abuse and applies to all employees that has been communicated to all employees, they can fire you.

If the policy states under certain conditions that an employee can be fired for substance abuse, they can fire you whether or not you are taking FMLA leave.

In these cases, it may be best to request legal guidance on how you should go about taking leave to attend a rehab center and what your options are legally.

Learn About Addiction Treatment Options In New England

If you are considering entering rehab, we can help.

Contact our team at Bedrock Recovery Center today to learn more about how we can help you recover from your substance use disorder.

  1. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) https://archive.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.pdf/
  2. Cornell Law School https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/29/825.119/
  3. New York State https://www.ny.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Family%20Care%20-%20Opioids%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf/
  4. Office Of Human Resources Management https://www.commerce.gov/hr/employees/leave/fmla/serious-health-condition/
  5. The Society for Human Resources Management https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/confidentiality-rules-for-employee-medical-info.aspx#:~:text=The%20HIPAA%20privacy%20rule%20requires,from%20the%20group%20health%20plan/
  6. Department Of Labor https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/employerguide.pdf/
  7. Department Of Labor https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/10c9.aspx/
  8. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) https://www.eeoc.gov/employment-protections-under-rehabilitation-act-1973-50-years-protecting-americans-disabilities

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: October 9, 2023

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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