Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

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Using the Family and Medical Leave Act to Go to Rehab

One of the biggest concerns many people have before going to rehab is whether or not they will be able to keep their job. This obstacle stops many people from seeking the help they desperately need. Fortunately, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures, if you are eligible, that you can keep your job for up to 12 weeks while you are in rehab.

Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one, learning about your rights and becoming familiar with the laws that can protect your job is important.

What is The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. The law was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to ensure that a person’s job title and employee health benefits are maintained during medical leave. It is designed to help people balance their personal and work-related responsibilities by enabling them to take a certain amount of unpaid leave for qualifying family and medical reasons. Additionally, FMLA aims to promote equal employment opportunities between men and women.

FMLA applies to all public and private elementary and secondary schools, companies with more than 50 employees, and all public agencies. People may request medical leave for a variety of different health problems, ranging from childbirth and medical emergencies to chronic illness and inpatient rehabilitation.

Under FMLA, eligible employees of covered employers are entitled to the following:

  • 12 workweeks of leave in a one-year period for any of the following:
    • Birth of a child or to care for a newborn child
    • An employee that is placed with a child for adoption or foster care to care for the child within one year of placement
    • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a severe health condition
    • Struggling with a serious health concern that makes the individual unable to perform their job


  • 26 workweeks of leave during a one-year period of time to provide care for a covered servicemember with serious illness or injury if the servicemember is the employee’s child, parent, or next of kin.

If you are eligible, FMLA may allow you to attend rehab for up to 12-weeks while keeping your job.

What are The Eligibility Requirements for FMLA?

Not everyone is eligible for FMLA, and not all employers are covered by this provision. Types of employers that are covered by FMLA include:

  • Private-sector companies with 20 or more workweeks each year and more than 50 employees
  • Private and public elementary or secondary schools
  • Local, state, and federal government agencies and other public entities

At the same time, even if your employer is covered by FMLA, you may not be an eligible employee. Eligible employees are those who:

  • Have worked for a covered employer for at least one year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year
  • Work at a covered location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of their home

If you meet these eligibility guidelines, you may be able to apply for FMLA so you can keep your job while going to rehab. Other circumstances may also allow you to take FMLA on a reduced schedule basis, which can be ideal for people seeking outpatient rehab.

Does FMLA Cover Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment is a protected service under FMLA under certain circumstances. FMLA protects those with serious health conditions, and addiction is formally recognized by the medical community as a complex disease that requires formal treatment.

Substance abuse can cause negative consequences at school, at home, and in the workplace. Even the most productive and friendly employee of a business who becomes affected by addiction may exhibit reduced productivity and motivation. According to Cornell Law, however, certain conditions must be met for substance abuse or addiction to qualify as a “serious health condition.”

In order to qualify as a “serious health condition,” one’s substance abuse or addiction must meet the following guidelines.

  • Having an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental health condition that requires inpatient care or an overnight stay
  • Struggling with an incapacity for more than three consecutive days as a result of the same condition that requires treatment
  • A healthcare provider must provide a referral for substance abuse treatment and the employee’s absence must be due to treatment rather than the use of a substance.

If you qualify for FMLA and have a written referral from a healthcare provider, your covered employer cannot take action against you for taking time away from work to seek treatment. Then, after you return to work after rehab, your employer must return you to your previous position with the same responsibilities and pay.

Will FMLA Ensure I Get Paid During Rehab?

While FMLA will protect your position at your job, it does not provide paid leave. You will not receive weekly or monthly paychecks during the time you are in rehab – you will only have job protection. With that being said, you may be able to use your PTO or paid vacation time during FMLA to collect a small paycheck.

While on Family and Medical Leave, your employer is required to keep your insurance active if you are covered by insurance through your workplace. However, you will still be responsible for paying your part of your monthly insurance premium.

Applying for Family and Medical Leave to Go to Rehab

If possible, you should put in a request for medical leave 30 days before you want your leave to begin. Your employer will need to see evidence that you are eligible for FMLA. Then, within five business days, your employer must either approve or deny the request. You may also have to turn over medical certification or your doctor’s referral to your employer.

Each employer may have a different process they ask you to follow when requesting time off for Family and Medical Leave. Be sure to speak with your employer about their process and requirements to make sure your request is granted.

Navigating your career, your addiction, and your need for treatment can be complicated, but we’re here to help. To learn more about using the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to secure your job during rehab, pick up the phone and call one of our dedicated addiction specialists today.

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