Many people know they have an addiction to drugs or alcohol and know they need help. Sadly, many people won’t seek addiction treatment for fear of losing their jobs. They worry they could be fired if they take the time they need to go to a recovery treatment center. What they might not know is that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is in place to protect their job while they receive their much-needed treatment.
What is the Family Medical Leave Act?
The Family Medical Leave Act provides legal protection to eligible employees so they can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid time off for medical reasons or serious family needs during a 12-month period. The federal law was passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The purpose of the FMLA, according to The United States Department of Labor, is to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families” by ensuring job stability to employees along with employer-provided healthcare if a personal or family health crisis occurs. As long as all of the criteria for specific medical or family reasons are met, employers are required by law to comply.
Eligibility Requirements for FMLA
For an employee to be considered eligible for benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act, they must meet specific criteria and work for a covered employer.
Requirements for Employees
- The employee must have worked for a minimum of 12 months for a covered employer.
- The employee must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months.
- The worksite must have at least 50 employees within a distance of 75 miles.
Requirements for Covered Employers
- All state, federal, and local agencies are covered employers. It does not matter how many people they employ.
- All public and private elementary and secondary schools are covered employers. It does not matter how many people they employ.
- Private employers must have 50 or more employees that work 20 weeks or more during the year. These employees must work within 75 miles of one another.
The Family Medical Leave Act and Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction to drugs or alcohol, called a substance use disorder, is a chronic, progressive and complicated disease. It affects the whole person emotionally, mentally, and physically. The impact it has on the person’s brain is serious and severe as it inhibits its ability to communicate with the rest of the body, including its muscles, organs, cells, and tissues.
Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), substance use disorders are considered disabilities. Because a substance use disorder is designated as a serious health condition, it is eligible for protection under the FMLA. The classification also prohibits employers from discriminating against any employee recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction.
What Other Reasons Qualify for Protection Under the FMLA?
Additional reasons that an employee can qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work include:
- A serious health condition that affects a person’s ability to perform basic functions and tasks at work.
- Taking care of a spouse, child, or parent that has a serious medication condition.
- The birth of a baby.
- Taking care of a baby within its first year.
- Taking custody of a foster or adopted child and caring for them during the first year they are in the family.
Important Things to Know about FMLA and Substance Use Disorder Treatment
- The employer cannot take any action against the employee because FMLA leave has been taken for alcohol or drug addiction treatment.
- A qualified healthcare provider must provide the treatment for the substance use disorder, or the employee will not qualify for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act.
- If an employee takes a leave of absence from work due to using the substance instead of recovery treatment, the time off does not qualify for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act.
- The human resource department of your company can explain their policy for requesting FMLA leave.
Getting the Support and Help You Need
Because the Family Medical League Act is in place, many people have the opportunity to get the help and support they need for the treatment of their substance use disorder without the fear of losing their job. Getting treatment in a residential recovery treatment center is a firm first step toward living a healthy and sober life.
English Mountain Recovery Center, located in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, offers programs that help clients heal from the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation caused by addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder, call and speak to one of our professional staff members. We will be able to answer any questions you may have, explain our programs, and help you or your loved one begin your journey on the road to recovery.