Employment Rights in Drug Rehab: A Guide to Your Rights

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Understanding the employment rights while in rehabilitation from substance use disorders is crucial for individuals seeking help while maintaining their career. This article explores the legal protections and practical considerations for employees considering drug rehabilitation.

Can My Employer Fire Me for Going to Rehab?

The concern about job security is a significant barrier for many considering rehab. The legal landscape in the U.S. offers some protections under federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, these protections have specific eligibility criteria and limitations.

Laws to Protect Your Job When You’re in Rehab

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons, including seeking treatment for a serious health condition like substance use disorder. To be eligible, you must work for a business or public agency with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, have been employed for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA protects individuals with disabilities, including those seeking addiction treatment, from discrimination in employment. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees and includes protection for those who have sought treatment for addiction, preventing discrimination like refusal to hire or wrongful termination. However, it does not protect individuals currently engaging in illegal drug use or whose substance use affects their job performance.

The Importance of Communication and Compliance

Proactive communication with your employer is essential. Informing them of your need for leave and the reasons behind it in accordance with your company’s policies can protect your position. Misunderstandings about FMLA or failure to comply with company policies can jeopardize job security.

Returning to Work Post-Rehab

Upon returning from rehab, it’s crucial to manage potential triggers and maintain the recovery process. Many workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide support services. Additionally, under the ADA, you might be entitled to reasonable accommodations like flexible work schedules or the option to work from home to support your ongoing recovery.


Navigating the path of rehabilitation while maintaining employment is complex yet manageable with the right information and approach. Understanding your legal rights and effectively communicating with your employer are key steps towards successfully balancing your health and career.