Can I Use FMLA to go to Rehab

When you realize you have an addiction and need professional help, one concern you may have is your job. Will your boss fire you for rehab? Is there any way you can keep your job while seeking addiction treatment?

Fortunately, there are many solutions that allow you to get treatment without losing your job. One is to use the Family and Medical Leave Act, better known as FMLA.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What the FMLA is
  • FMLA eligibility criteria
  • How to navigate the FMLA to take time off work for rehab
  • Your rights under the FMLA and the ADA

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

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a federal law passed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton. The goal of the FMLA was to help balance families’ needs with workplace demands and provide Americans with job stability. Under the FMLA, eligible employees of qualified employers are entitled to 12 weeks of leave in a one-year period for the following medical situations:[1]

  • The birth of a child and caring for the newborn within one year of birth
  • The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care and caring for the newly placed child within one year of placement
  • Caring for the employee’s family members such as a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job

The law requires employers of 50 or more employees to guarantee job security for those who need to take family or medical leave. It also mandates that employers must continue paying for their share of health insurance premiums during the employee’s leave. When returning to work, employees must be returned to their job or an equivalent job that has the same pay and benefits.

A serious health condition can be any physical or mental health condition that inhibits one’s ability to perform their job. Drug and alcohol addiction can qualify as a serious health condition if certain criteria are met. Other serious health conditions that may be covered by the FMLA include severe depression, severe bipolar disorder, cancer, diabetes, pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, pneumonia, and many others.

Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can only be used for receiving treatment for substance abuse if the treatment is provided directly by a health care provider or if the treatment is given by someone who has been referred by a health care provider.[2]

Can You Use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to Take Time off for Addiction Treatment?

Yes, if you qualify for Family and Medical Leave and are planning on attending a formal addiction treatment program, you may use the FMLA for drug rehab. You are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and continued health coverage on your employer’s part.

It’s important to note that not everyone qualifies for the FMLA. You must meet certain eligibility criteria.

Eligibility Criteria

You are eligible for medical leave if you:

  • Are employed by a covered employer
  • Have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutively)
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before their medical leave
  • Work in a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

What is a covered employer? A covered employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is:[3]

  • Any private-sector employer with 50 or more employees working 20 or more weeks each year
  • Any local, state, or federal government agency
  • Any public or private elementary or secondary school

How Long Does Rehab Last?

The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity of your substance use disorder and your individual needs. Detox usually lasts a few days to a week, but inpatient treatment and outpatient rehab programs can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days. 90-day programs are just over 12 weeks long, so your medical leave will give you plenty of time to get the treatment you need before having to return to work.

Is Mental Health Treatment Covered by the FMLA?

Yes, you can use the FMLA to take unpaid time off work for mental health treatment so long as your mental health condition is deemed severe and diagnosed by a licensed physician. Nearly half of people who have a substance abuse problem also have a mental health condition, so if you struggle with co-occurring disorders, it may be ideal to use the FMLA to get treatment for both conditions at the same time.[4]

Can My Boss Still Fire Me?

The FMLA ensures that you will still have your job after returning from 12 weeks of medical leave. However, it does not apply to individuals who are currently using drugs or those who have allowed their addiction to significantly affect their job or workplace. If you continue to come to work under the influence or fail drug tests, your employer has the right to terminate your position.

Find Help Today

The fear of losing your job should never hold you back from getting the help you deserve. Protections such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans With Disabilities Act (ACA), and others help ensure reasonable access to treatment, fair return to work, and continued employment.

Invigorate Behavioral Health is a licensed substance abuse treatment center specializing in compassionate and evidence-based care. Our team of admissions counselors is available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and help you get started on your recovery journey.

To learn more about using the FMLA for addiction treatment or to speak with a team member for a confidential, risk-free assessment, please contact us today.


  1. U.S. Department of Labor: Family and Medical Leave Act
  2. Cornell Law School: 29 CFR § 825.119: Leave for treatment of substance abuse.
  3. U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness

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