What to Expect When Taking Leave from Work for Treatment

If you’re planning to go to treatment, chances are high that you’ll have to take off work to go.

For many of us, that means taking 30-90 days off from our jobs, and that can be a lot of stress. That’s especially true if you work in a smaller job where you might have less in the way of support from HR and other staff. The good news is that your right to take time off work from rehab is protected by law. However, you’ll still have to take steps to protect your job while ensuring you can go to rehab.

If you’re ready to go to rehab, the most important thing is that you go. Your work and life responsibilities shouldn’t hold you back from having opportunities to heal. If you need help with that, call us at 909-314-1097 for a free consultation and support, so we can figure out how we can help you streamline your move to recovery.

outpatient program

It’s Your Right to Go to Rehab

Rehab is considered your legal medical right. That’s so much the case that substance use disorder is classified as a temporary disability under the Affordable Care Act. This means that you qualify for temporary disability rights, including options to take off work, receive care, and go to rehab for as long as you need.

In fact, even if your boss knows you’re going to rehab, they can’t fire you. You’re legally allowed to put in a request to your boss for assistance finding a rehab program, getting financial support, and to use any recovery programs and aftercare programs available through your workplace. Further, if your boss employes more than about 50 people, they’re actually legally required to have these programs in place.

What does that mean in practice

Your boss cannot fire you for going to rehab

You can use sick leave to go to rehab

Employee-assistance programs may be available to provide additional financial assistance

Your employer’s insurance is legally required to cover at least part of your substance abuse treatment, providing it’s with an approved provider (Compassion Recovery is In Network with all major insurance providers)

If you’re part of a union, you may be able to get additional support and resources

Because substance use disorder is considered a temporary disability, your boss isn’t allowed to discriminate against you in any way. That means they can’t fire you, they can’t reduce your responsibilities, they can’t demote you, they can’t deny you a promotion, etc. That’s important, because if they do discriminate against you because of going to rehab or because of a substance use disorder, you have significant legal protection on your side.

If you detox first, you have a legal right to:

Up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave under the Family Leave and Medical Act (providing your employer has 50+ employees and you’ve been employed for 1 year or longer)

ADA assistance and temporary disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act

However, you do not have legal right to ADA assistance if you’re still using, which means you should go through a detox program before applying.

What You Share is Up to You

You’re not legally obligated to tell anyone at work why you’re taking medical leave. That means you can maintain your privacy and refuse to tell your boss or anyone at work what you are taking medical leave for. In fact, the Family and Medical Leave Act also allows you to take unpaid medical leave to take care of a family member or relative in an emergency. All you have to do is get a note from your doctor stating that this qualifies, and your boss is legally required to accept it, providing you’ve been working with the company for a year or longer and the company employs 50 or more people. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the last 12 months.

Disclose as much as you want to

You don’t have to answer questions about what you’re doing, where, or why. Just for how long, when you’ll be back, and that it is medically necessary.

You don’t have to disclose whether your medical leave is for you or a close family member

Your employer is not legally allowed to ask about why you’re taking medical leave. If they do, you can remind them that is in breach of law.

It’s also important to keep in mind that sharing about your rehab can mean that you get more support and more resources. For example, your workplace can provide additional financial support. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, your workplace is also required to:

Make accommodations for you to seek out treatment

Allow you to leave work early for ongoing care

Provide financial support for substance use recovery treatment

You may also have access to programs including counseling, therapy, and recovery programs initiated by your workplace. In fact, the larger your workplace, the more likely it is that those resources are available for you if you disclose to HR.

What’s more, you can share about rehab and substance use disorders with HR and not with your team and direct team lead. It’s up to you who you share to and how you disclose.

working professionals

You Don’t Have to Use Vacation Days to Go to Rehab

If you’re ready to go to rehab, your job shouldn’t hold you back. You also don’t have to use your vacation hours to go. Instead, use your Family and Medical Leave, which allows up to 3 months of unpaid medical leave providing you:

  • Work for a company with 50+ employees
  • Have worked 1,250+ hours over the last year
  • Have been employed for 1+ years

This means you can take up to 3 months off work. You will lose pay. However, you can apply for temporary disability, providing you’re in a recognized detox program and are not a current substance abuser. You can then supplement your income with an application for temporary disability. However, states vary in willingness and ability to pay out temporary disability, so it’s a good idea to check this in advance to ensure that you qualify.

Our Program Defined

We strive to offer the best treatment experience and believe that through our proven program, that we can help you not only overcome mental illness, but achieve a fulfilling life full of gratitude and compassion beyond what seems possible at the beginning of your path to recovery.

Your Boss Might Look for Other Reasons to Fire You

It’s important to keep in mind that you are legally protected if you go to rehab. Your boss cannot fire you because you have a substance use disorder and are getting treatment. However, especially in very conservative workplaces, you might face pushback in other ways. For example, your boss might look for evidence that substance use disorder has affected your conduct. If you have conduct related issues, it could negatively impact your work and your boss may actually fire you for it – though not while you are on disability leave for rehab.

For example, if your contract requires that you behave in ways that represent the company professionally, even during your spare time, you might lose your job over having a DUI or having been arrested. People in professional occupations like lawyers are especially prone to these kinds of contract issues.

You'll also want to consider:

Times you were late to work

How much work you’ve missed

Any inappropriate behavior towards coworkers or clients

Accidents or ignoring safety precautions

Information handling

Any theft or misuse of company resources

Drinking or using on the job

If you think that any of those issues could come up, then it might be a good idea to not disclose the reason for leave to your boss. This means you’re taking anonymous medical leave with your doctor validating that it is medically necessary but without disclosing what it’s for. If there’s concrete proof of these kinds of issues and your boss can find them by digging, you’ll want to take steps to avoid having your boss look into those issues.

Work Insurance Covers (Part) of Rehab

Your workplace insurance is required to cover part or all of your rehab program. If you’re going to an inpatient program, that will normally be between 20% and 70% coverage for in-network providers. Compassion Recovery Centers is in network for all major insurance providers, meaning that you’re very likely to get coverage with us.

However, that does mean you’ll be able to go to rehab with your work insurance covering part of the costs. Contact us for a free check on your insurance coverage.

Or, call us at 909-314-1097 to discuss your treatment and recovery options at Compassion Recovery. We’re here to help.

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