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Can I Get Fired for Going to Rehab?

fired for going to rehab

Long-term recovery from a substance use or alcohol use disorder often involves seeking and finding professional help. From attending an inpatient rehabilitation program, like the kind provided by Northpoint Recovery, to finding outpatient therapy and support, like the kind provided by Ashwood Recovery, getting professional help remains the most effective way to secure long-term sobriety and wellness. However, the fear of getting fired for going to rehab can inhibit someone from seeking help.

The question, “Can I get fired for going to rehab?” involves the intersection of employment rights, individual healthcare needs, and legal protections. It requires an examination of laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and how they intersect with the employment rights of people in rehab. 

Meanwhile, veterans and active military personnel have their own unique circumstances around this issue. Fortunately, we’re here to explore the question and find answers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Enacted in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is a federal law designed to protect an employee’s right to take unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons without fear of losing their job.

Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. These reasons include addressing serious health condition—either their own or those of a loved one. Addiction and substance abuse disorders are recognized as serious health conditions under the FMLA.

To qualify for FMLA, certain criteria that must be met. First the employer is either a public agency or a private company with more than 50 employees. Second, the person taking leave is recognized by the business as having been employed for at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours within that time, which equates to just over 100 hours per month.

Protections Under the FMLA and ADA

Despite the protections under the FMLA, some people undergoing rehab may face uncertainty regarding job security. While FMLA provides the framework for employee leave, it does not guarantee protection from termination. 

Still, firing an employee solely for undergoing rehab could be viewed as discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, including those with a history of substance abuse or addiction, who are in treatment or have completed treatment.

Employers covered by the FMLA are required to make reasonable accommodations. These include adjusting work schedules and granting unpaid leave, for employees with substance abuse or addiction issues. These accommodations include allowing extended leave for rehab unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. (Undue hardship occurs when an employer experiences excessive costs or difficulty because an employee took an extended leave.)

Other Protections

Besides the FMLA and ADA protections, additional laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace, including:

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits employers from using medical information in a discriminating way. If you’re qualified to do your job and you haven’t breached your employee contract, you can’t be treated unfavorably for requiring medical attention. HIPAA also prohibits employers from sharing medical information with others, including treatment for substance use disorders. Employers are permitted, however, to test for drugs and are free to discipline employees found to be in breach of their rules.
  • Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, any entity that receives federal grants, federal aid, or contracts is prohibited from firing an employee for seeking treatment or being in recovery for an addiction. Exceptions to this rule exist, like if the employee’s condition prevents them from carrying out their job duties safely or effectively.

Legal Protections for Active Military Personnel

For active military personnel, entering rehab presents a unique case. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), active military personnel who seek rehabilitation for substance abuse or addiction cannot be fired solely because of their participation in a rehab program.

While USERRA provides job protection, it does not guarantee immunity from disciplinary action for misconduct related to substance abuse issues. Service members who violate military regulations related to substance abuse still face consequences. These consequences can include discharge or other disciplinary measures.

Legal Protections for Veterans

For veterans transitioning to civilian life, various legal protections and support mechanisms exist. These protections can help their reintegration into the civilian workforce. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides comprehensive healthcare services to eligible veterans. These services include treatment for substance abuse and addiction. Veterans who meet eligibility criteria, such as having served in the military and receiving an honorable discharge, can access healthcare services through the VHA.

Rehab and Job Security

Ensuring you don’t get fired for going to rehab requires a bit of preparation. It also requires an understanding between employee and employer. First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with your rights under FMLA, ADA, and any applicable state laws. By understanding and complying with legal obligations under these laws, employers can help facilitate the rehabilitation process  while retaining valuable employees.

Honest communication with your employer the need to take some time off is a good idea. Together, you and your employer may be able to come up with a plan that ensures your health while causing as little workplace disruption as possible.

Furthermore, workplaces can implement policies that promote a culture of support for employees’ mental health. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), confidential counseling services, and training for managers and supervisors about recognizing substance use issues can all contribute to a more supportive workplace environment.

The question of whether someone can get fired for going to rehab underscores the complex intersection of employment rights, healthcare needs, and legal protections. Yes, the fear of job loss may deter individuals from seeking rehabilitation. However, federal laws such as FMLA, ADA, and USERRA provide important safeguards against wrongful termination.

Ultimately, recovering from a substance use or alcohol use disorder should not come at the cost of your job. By understanding and advocating for your rights, you can empower yourself to seek professional help with confidence.

Get Answers to Your Questions with Northpoint Recovery

Want more details about the logistics around getting professional help? Get them today at Northpoint Recovery. We can answer any question you may have about treatment, including dual diagnosis resources. To find out more, call us today at 888.296.8976. You can also contact us online.