Can You Request Time Off Work to Go to Rehab?

Close up horizontal image doctor in white uniform holding hands of female patient

Getting treatment for alcohol addiction or drug addiction is a big decision that might take a big portion of your upcoming calendar to complete. It’s not uncommon for people to attend a residential inpatient program or rehab program for a week or longer. What will that mean if you are a part-time or full-time worker, though? Can you request time off work to go to rehab?

The short and important answer is: Yes, you have the right to request time off work to go to rehab. You might even be eligible for up to 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which will protect your employment status while you are in rehab.

What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted in 1993 to add more protections for workers who need to take extended time away from work for certain family- or medical-related reasons. As the social stigma around going to rehab has decreased in recent years, the number of workers using FMLA protections to go to rehab has increased.

Key takeaways about the FMLA and rehab are:

  1. You must have a “serious health condition” to use your FMLA rights.
  2. Substance abuse and related mental health issues are considered “serious health conditions” by the FMLA, in most cases.
  3. You must have worked for your employer for at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months and have worked for at least 12 months total to be eligible to use FMLA leave.
  4. Your employer must have at least 50 workers within 75 miles of your typical place of employment or the employer’s main office.
  5. You can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a one-year period under the FMLA.
  6. Your employment conditions can’t be changed because you used FMLA protections.
  7. When you return to work from an FMLA leave, you must be allowed to return to the same employment role.

Can You Be Fired for Using FMLA for Rehab?

Both the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide important protections that stop an employer from firing you just for going on FMLA leave to attend rehab. In other words, your boss can’t react to your FMLA leave request by firing you. You also can’t be fired for that reason why you are away in rehab.

However, you can still lose your job for other nondiscriminatory reasons while you are in rehab and using FMLA protections. For example, if your employer’s company shutters or must downsize, you can be laid off. It’s also worth noting that the FMLA does not protect you from employment penalties if you miss work due to substance addiction.

Filing for FMLA Leave to Go to Rehab

When you want to go to rehab or a substance addiction center for extended treatment, make sure that you file for FMLA leave specifically. By following the FMLA procedures, you will be better suited to invoke FMLA protections just in case any complications come up. On the other hand, if you take a leave of absence without following FMLA procedures or you simply use your sick days until you finish rehab, you won’t get FMLA protections.

The typical FMLA leave request process includes these steps:

  1. Arrange a rehab program at a reputable addiction treatment center like Decision Point Center in Arizona.
  2. Notify your employer at least 30 days in advance of your intention to use an FMLA leave.
  3. Inform your employer about how long you will be away due to the leave. You typically do not need to give specifics about why you need medical leave.
  4. Review the response from your employer, which must be provided to you within 5 business days of your initial notification. If your request is denied, you may want to talk to an employment law attorney about how to quickly appeal or refile.

What Should You Say to Your Employer?

The first thing you need to do when thinking about using an FMLA leave to attend rehab is to confirm that your employer is even FMLA-covered. As mentioned above, only certain employers are covered by FMLA, and yours might not be. If they aren’t, then they are under no obligation to let you go on an extended leave without potential repercussions like job loss or demotion.

If your employer is FMLA-covered, you should talk to an HR representative if any are available to learn more about how to take an FMLA leave. You do not need to talk to your boss or supervisor directly if your employer has an HR department. No matter who you talk to about going on leave for rehab, you should be realistic about how much time you will need and be honest about needing the leave for a medical reason. If you’re comfortable being open with them, let them know that you are going to rehab, but don’t feel pressured to divulge too many details if you aren’t.

Should You Go to Rehab or Just Keep Working?

Please consider going to rehab and using an FMLA leave if you are struggling with substance addiction. Many people think that they should “just keep working” through the addiction because taking time off work will get them fired. What they might not realize is that they will be far more likely to face consequences at work if addiction is affecting their behavior and job performance than if they just used their employment right to an FMLA leave.

Decision Point Center Makes Rehab Easy for You

Do you live in Arizona and want to start rehab for substance addiction but aren’t sure if you can take time off work? Talk to a team member of Decision Point Center today. We take pride in making it simple and easy for people to begin addiction treatment, even before they take their first step in our rehab center. A member of our team can help you figure out if you are eligible to go on FMLA leave and then schedule a customized rehab program that fits your needs, so you can notify your employer as soon as possible with an accurate estimation of how long you will be away.

Don’t let questions about FMLA get in the way of your sobriety. Call Decision Point Center at (844) 292-5010 or contact us online now.

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