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The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Addiction Recovery

man filling out paper work - family medical leave act

There are many individuals suffering from drug or alcohol addiction who are afraid to seek help because of the possibility of losing their jobs. They fear they may be fired if they are away for an extended period of time while in a recovery treatment center. In many of these cases, however, the person’s job is protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

What Is the Family Medical Leave Act?

In January 1993, President Bill Clinton passed a federal law called the Family Medical Leave Act. According to the United States Department of Labor, the purpose of the law was to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families” by ensuring employees had job stability and access to healthcare provided by the employer when a family or personal health crisis occurred.

The law provides eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected leave of absence during a 12-month time period. Employers are required to comply as long as the criteria for certain family and medical reasons are met.

Substance Addiction and FMLA

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that addiction is a complicated progressive disease that has an effect on the affected person mentally, emotionally, and physically. This serious chronic illness has a severe impact on the ability of the person’s brain to communicate with the rest of the body including its organs, muscles, tissues, and cells.

Since drug addiction and alcoholism are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against anyone recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, also called substance use disorder (SUD). Because of the ADA classification, the treatment of a substance use disorder is designated as a serious health condition—making it eligible for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act.

FMLA Eligibility Requirements

To be considered eligible for FMLA, an employee must work for a covered employer and meet specific criteria.

Covered Employers

The employer must meet the following criteria to be considered a covered employer:

  • Private employers must have a minimum of 50 employees working within 75 miles of one another for 20 weeks or more during the year.
  • All private and public secondary or elementary schools are covered employers, regardless of how many employees they have.
  • All public federal, local, and state agencies are covered employers, regardless of the number of people employed.

Eligible Employees

In addition to working for a covered employer, the employee must meet the following requirements:

  • You have worked at least 12 months for the employer.
  • Your worksite has a minimum of 50 people working within 75 miles.
  • You have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for the employer during the previous 12-month period.

Reasons that Qualify for FMLA

Under the FMLA an employee may take a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks for the following reasons:

  • The birth of a baby and taking care of the baby within the first year
  • Taking custody of an adopted or foster child and caring for them during their first year in the family
  • Caring for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious medical condition
  • A health condition that is serious and affects the individual’s ability to perform basic tasks and functions at work

4 Additional Things to Know about FMLA and Treatment for Substance Abuse

  1. Your company’s human resource department can explain their policy for requesting FMLA leave.
  2. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, treatment for drug or alcohol addiction must be provided by a qualified healthcare provider.
  3. If an employee’s absence is due to using the substance, instead of for treatment, the time does not qualify for FMLA leave.
  4. No action can be taken by the employer against the employee because they have taken FMLA leave for a drug or alcohol addiction.

Get the Help You Need

If you are suffering from substance abuse and unsure about seeking help for fear of losing your job, be assured that there are federal laws in place to protect your rights as an employee while you are getting treatment for your addiction.

To begin the process of recovery, call and speak to one of the professional staff members at Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona. They will be able to answer your questions and guide you toward achieving a clean and sober life.

Learn more about programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center, residential treatment center near Tempe.
Contact us at
(888) 979-1840


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