How To Go to Rehab Without Losing Your Job

How To Go to Rehab Without Losing Your Job

Last Updated: December 21, 2023

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When people are deciding whether to go away to rehab to receive addiction treatment, often one of their main concerns is if they will lose their jobs. While this is a valid worry, laws are in place to protect people taking time off work to attend rehab. These laws establish procedures and protections allowing you to seek recovery without fearing losing your job.

Can You Get Fired for Going to Rehab?

Your employer should not fire you simply for going to rehab on your off hours. However, you can be terminated for coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to show up for work, violating a workplace policy or if your performance suffers. 

Attending addiction treatment during your time off should not lead to losing your job. In fact, some laws protect your job if you choose to take time off for rehab.

Your Rights as an Employee

Five important laws can protect your job should you seek rehab. Each has different requirements to qualify for protection under the law: 

  • Family and Medical Leave Act 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants job-protected leave, allowing employees to seek treatment for a medical condition. While taking leave under this law is unpaid, it enables an employee to continue receiving health insurance benefits, and they can take up to 12 weeks per year while still keeping their job. A substance use disorder or addiction can qualify as a health condition allowing you to take leave without being fired.

It’s important to understand that taking FMLA leave does not mean you’ll be protected if you violate a workplace policy, such as using substances at work. The purpose of FMLA is to help you keep your job while you’re away seeking treatment. It’s also critical to understand that to qualify, you must work for a covered employer at a location with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius and have worked at least 1,250 hours over 12 months with the employer. 

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures people with disabilities, including those with drug and alcohol addictions, do not experience workplace discrimination. It is important to understand that while the ADA does protect current and past alcohol users, it states that protections for drug addiction only apply if a person is in recovery and not currently using illegal drugs. Much like FMLA, the ADA is not likely to stop you from being fired if you are caught using drugs at work; however, it protects you from discrimination if you stop drug use and seek treatment. 

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act stipulates that coverage for behavioral health conditions, including substance misuse, must be equal to coverage offered for physical health conditions. This means that copays, deductibles and limits on services cannot be more restrictive for behavioral health care. This law does not require your employer-provided insurance plan to cover addiction treatment, but if the program does include this sort of care, it must be equivalent to what is covered in medical services. 

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the first federal act to address equality for those with disabilities in the workforce. This act helps protect those with disabilities, including but not limited to mental health diagnoses, from discrimination in the workplace. It can be comforting to those seeking treatment in a rehabilitation facility to know they are protected from discrimination by their job for getting treatment. 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA was enacted to protect people’s health information when being transmitted to medical entities. This means any patient’s medical records and identifying information must be treated with confidentiality. When seeking medical treatment for any substance use disorder, HIPAA ensures that your employer cannot access your medical records without your consent. 

Research Your Options 

Knowing your options for treatment is one of the first steps to picking the right rehabilitation. Most companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP is a program through an employer that gives employees access to free services. These can include:

  • Short-term counseling
  • Referrals
  • Child care assistance
  • Adoption services
  • Work-related problem assistance

EAPs can help with a very broad range of issues, such as substance abuse, personal or work stress, grief, mental health diagnoses and family problems.

To find out about available programs, contact your health insurance and EAP office to see what facilities and providers are covered. 

How To Go to Rehab and Keep Your Job

Keeping your job while going to rehab is possible. Taking advantage of legal protections allows you to take time off while knowing your job is protected. Flexible options are also available if you’d prefer not to take time off from work for rehab. For example, you can attend an outpatient program during the evenings and weekends while still working during the day.While outpatient rehab can be a convenient option for some people, for others, taking time off from work to attend an inpatient program is the best option. Inpatient rehab takes you away from work for a period but also removes you from stressors and triggers in your daily environment and allows you to focus solely on your recovery.

How To Prepare for Rehab When You Have a Job

You can use FMLA for rehab to take time off work without losing your job, but doing so will require some preparation. It’s important to take the proper steps, as specified by FMLA and your employer’s policies, so the law and your health insurance will cover your leave.

Telling Your Employer

According to FMLA and other legal protections, the first step in taking time off for rehab is telling your employer your intent to seek leave from work for a medical reason. This often involves meeting with your human resources department to request the necessary paperwork and apply for FMLA. You must submit documentation from your healthcare provider demonstrating your need to take leave for an approved medical reason. 

You do not need to tell your employer every detail of your situation, but you need to give them enough information proving you meet the criteria for medical leave. Consider telling them you are seeking substance use disorder treatment because you are actively recovering. Or, you might say you’re seeking inpatient medical care for a serious health condition and submit documentation from your doctor. If you have questions about your legal rights, it’s important to consult with an attorney. 

Telling Your Co-workers

Whether you inform your co-workers that you are seeking addiction treatment is up to you. You might choose to share with a few trusted co-workers that you’re going to rehab, but you aren’t obligated to tell anyone. Your absence will be noticed, especially by the people you work most closely with, but they do not have a right to know your medical situation unless you want to share that information. You could tell them you’re taking time off work for a serious medical concern but expect to return. 

Other Preparations

Beyond telling your employer and following the proper procedures to take leave under FMLA, it’s often necessary to “tie up loose ends” before leaving for rehab. This may mean canceling scheduled meetings during your time away from the office or attempting to fit them in before you go, if feasible.

If you’re working on projects with deadlines, you’ll need to complete them or at least get to a point where you can transfer the work to someone taking over in your absence. 

Returning To Work After Rehab 

If you follow the correct procedures to take leave under FMLA, you can return to work after rehab. You will have to take certain steps to make this a smooth transition. 

The first step may be to submit a certification from your treatment center or a doctor stating that you can return to work. Once cleared to return, you can resume your regular or equivalent job.

Next, it’s important to consider that your co-workers may have questions as you return to work. You have the right to choose what information you share with them.

Finally, you may face stress or temptations while transitioning back to work. Engaging in ongoing services, such as counseling or support groups in the community, is important to help you learn to cope. 

Begin Your Recovery Journey at The Recovery Village Columbus Drug and Alcohol Rehab

The Recovery Village Columbus Drug and Alcohol Rehab offers a full range of addiction treatment services, including medical detox and inpatient and outpatient rehab. We are located just outside Columbus in the suburb of Groveport. Our aftercare program, among other services, helps employed individuals return to work after recovery. If you’re struggling at work or home due to an addiction, it’s time to get your life back. Begin the admissions process with one of our Recovery Advocates today.


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Labor. “Family and Medical Leave Act.” 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Labor. “FMLA Frequently Asked Questions.” 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023. “The ADA, Addiction, Recovery, and Employment.” 2020. Accessed October 3, 2023. “The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).” September 6, 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Edemekong PF, Annamaraju P, Haydel MJ. “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.” StatPearls, Updated February 3, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2023.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “Employee Assistance Program (EAP).” 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.

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