Can You Get Fired for Going to Rehab?

4 min read · 12 sections
What you will learn:
Understanding your rights through ADA and FMLA.
How to talk to your employer about going to treatment.
Learning about Return-to-Work Agreement and long-term recovery.

Making the decision to enter rehab for addiction requires careful consideration. It’s a big step, and for some, it can be stressful if they worry about jeopardizing job stability while receiving treatment. Fortunately, laws protect employed individuals seeking recovery. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) both provide protection and prevent individuals from being fired for going to rehab for a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD)—medical conditions defined by an uncontrollable use of substances or alcohol despite negative consequences.1

Please note that American Addiction Centers is not authorized to give legal advice to our online readers. Although potentially helpful, the information communicated in this article is not legal advice.

Can You Be Fired for Going to Rehab?

Yes, you may be fired from your job for going to rehab if addiction interferes with your ability to do your job. It is within an employer’s rights to terminate the person. Despite protections from the FMLA and ADA, it is also important to note that neither the FMLA or the ADA cover individuals who are currently using drugs. Though there are ways to approach attending rehab that may be protected by law.

Rights, Laws, and Protections for Going to Rehab

FMLA and the ADA protect you if you seek treatment for a SUD or AUD.1

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA, passed in 1993, serves to protect individuals who require a leave of absence from their job to care for themselves, a child, a spouse, or a parent with a serious health problem.1

Employees can use FMLA leave while they seek help for SUDs and related problems, including : 1

  • Treatment for alcohol and/or drug addiction.
  • Treatment for a drug- or alcohol-use-induced physical illness, such as liver failure.
  • Care for parents, children, and other close relatives who require treatment for a SUD or substance-use-related health condition.

Under the FMLA, an employer cannot demote, fire, or refuse the promotion of an employee who utilizes their leave.1

FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid—and not reimbursable—leave for qualified individuals to seek treatment for a SUD or AUD or to help a loved one struggling with addiction without being fired.2 It allows access to group healthcare benefits during that time to help cover treatment costs and resets annually.2

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA, federal rights legislation that took effect in 1990, protects employees in recovery and those who have sought treatment for addiction from discrimination.1

The ADA protects individuals by prohibiting employers from participating in discriminating behaviors, including:1

  • Refusing to hire or promote an individual because they attended rehab or have sought help for a SUD or AUD in the past.
  • Firing an individual for going to addiction treatment now or in the past.
  • Firing or refusing to hire or promote an individual with a history of addiction or substance misuse.

FMLA Eligibility

To qualify for FMLA, there are certain criteria that must be met, including:1

  • The employer is either a public agency or a private company with more than 50 employees.
  • The individual taking leave has been employed by the business for at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours within that time, which equates to a little over 100 hours per month.

Fears and Stereotypes of Attending Rehab While Employed

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 10.8 million full-time workers in the United States have a SUD.3 Many of these individuals fear that getting treatment might hurt their career. Besides the FMLA and ADA protections, additional laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace, including:4

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which adds discrimination protections against employees and job applicants based on a disability in federal agencies’ activities, federal financial assistance, federal employees, and federal contractors’ employees.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the confidentiality of an individual’s medical and mental health information.

Outpatient Rehab: Going to Rehab After Work

There are a number of treatment options for those who seek help for addiction, including inpatient/residential programs and outpatient services.

Outpatient treatment allows individuals to receive therapy and other services at the rehab facility then return home to sleep. It affords them the flexibility to attend work or school and participate in daily-life responsibilities. It is typically less intensive than inpatient treatment but often includes drug and/or alcohol education, counseling, and more.5

How Long Is Rehab?

The length of treatment varies for everyone. Many facilities offer options, including, 30-, 60, and 90-day programs, but there’s no predetermined length that works universally. Additionally, different factors—such as the severity of the SUD and the state of the individual’s mental health—impact the course and length of treatment. That’s why it is important that individual’s work with a healthcare provider or therapist to determine the best treatment plan based on their unique needs. Studies indicate that completing the recommended adequate treatment length is crucial for a successful recovery.5

Learn more about short-term rehabs, long-term rehabs, and length of treatments.

How Much Does Rehab Cost?

Facility location, services provided, length of treatment, and additional amenities all affect the cost of rehab. For example, because inpatient treatment is more intensive and requires around-the-clock care, it may cost more than outpatient services, which can be less intensive.5

The good news is that health insurance typically covers at least part of your treatment. Check with your insurance provider to determine the scope of coverage. Or contact the treatment facility directly and ask about treatment costs.

Explore Rehab Options Near Me

Can I Work While in Rehab?

Outpatient treatment programs allow individuals to live at home while attending treatment. Services like individual therapy, family therapy, and group counseling may be offered as part of the outpatient program. For those in need of more, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) require at least a 9-hour commitment every week—3 hours a day, 3 days a week—however, some programs offer more sessions per week and/or longer sessions each day.6 You could reasonably expect to be able to work while you are attending an outpatient program, depending on the requirements and your schedule.

During inpatient treatment, you may have access to your electronic devices outside of treatment hours. This may vary though based on your situation and individuals are expected to be focused on treatment.

Preparing for Rehab Treatment

If you are considering entering a substance abuse treatment program, know your rights and talk to your employer or your employer’s human resources department about taking leave under the FMLA, if applicable. While you do not need to tell your employer your actual diagnosis, you do need to provide enough information to show that your leave is a FMLA-protected condition, and being transparent allows them to help support your recovery when you return.7 It’s also wise to tie up loose ends on current projects and alert coworkers that you’re taking a leave of absence.

For their part, your employer must provide you with a notice of your rights and responsibilities under FMLA, including:7

  • A definition of the 12-month period they use to keep track of FMLA usage. For instance, some might use the calendar year, 12 months from the first time you take leave, or your anniversary date as an employee.
  • Whether they require medical certification from your healthcare provider.
  • Your right to use paid leave as well, if applicable.
  • Whether your employer requires you to use paid leave.
  • Your right to maintain your benefits and whether premium payments may be required.
  • Your right to return to your job at the end of your FMLA leave.




Returning to Work After Treatment

When you return to work, you must be able to return to the same position you left or one that is nearly identical, according to FMLA regulations.7

Your employer may ask that you complete a return-to-work agreement upon your completion of rehab. A return-to-work agreement is confidential and outlines expectations for both you and your employer. These expectations may include following through with all treatment recommendations and the expectation of abstinence upon your return to work—both of which help with accountability.

For some, returning to work and coworkers may feel scary and overwhelming, but it’s an important step in your recovery. It might be helpful to plan what you’ll say to coworkers before you return, discuss the transition with your employer, and follow through with aftercare treatment plans that might include support groups and alumni gatherings.

Rehab and Employment FAQs

Ways to Get in Contact With Us

If you believe you or someone you love may be struggling with addiction, let us hear your story and help you determine a path to treatment.

There are a variety of confidential, free, and no obligation ways to get in contact with us to learn more about treatment.

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