What Is FMLA and What Should I Know About Using It?

If your chief reason for not going to rehab to get the help you need to overcome a drug or alcohol addiction is a fear of losing your job, you are not alone. Multiple studies show that the fear of losing one’s job while undergoing addiction recovery treatments ranks as one of the top 3 reasons people cite in explaining why they have not sought help to overcome an addiction. Fortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) makes it possible for individuals to get the help they need and feel confident knowing they have a job to return to after completing rehab. Also known as the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA is a bill that was signed into law by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1993. And it requires that employers in both the private and public sector provide a minimum of 12 weeks of job-protected leave to eligible employees when they need time off from work for medical reasons. And in nearly all cases, time off to receive addiction recovery treatments is covered under FMLA.

How Is FMLA Eligibility Determined?

As previously mentioned, FMLA is available to eligible employees holding jobs in either the public or private sector. However, not all employees will qualify for the 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year to tend to health-related matters. It is also worth noting that not all employers are required to offer FMLA either. To be deemed eligible for FMLA, employees must work for an employer required by law to provide such time off for medical reasons. These employers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, include the following:

  • Employers in the private sector with a minimum of 50 employees, in or within 75 miles of its primary location, working at least 20 weeks in a single calendar year
  • Employers in public or private secondary or elementary schools
  • All state, federal, or local government employers

As far as employee eligibility is concerned, those interested in FMLA will, along with working for an employer required by law to provide such time off, have to meet the following in the way of criteria:

  • Worked for their respective employer for 12 or more months
  • Worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours within 12 months before needing to take medical leave

What you Should Know Before Applying for FMLA

If you have decided to break the cycle of addiction, you are already well on your way to getting your life back in order. That said, there are a few things you should know about applying and ultimately becoming eligible for FMLA if you need time off work for addiction recovery treatments. Firstly, you should be committed to achieving long-term sobriety as a resumption of drug or alcohol use could spell trouble with your employer. In short, employers are well within their right to discipline and terminate employees if they find that a newly-formed drug or alcohol problem is interfering with their work performance. That said, FMLA does not protect against either of these two outcomes. These consequences are worth calling attention to since it is not uncommon for individuals with a substance abuse problem to come to work under the influence. And this is backed by a 1996 study published by the Social Science Journal, a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal. The study revealed that around 25 percent of individuals with a drug or alcohol problem go to work under the influence. Second, your ability to maintain your employment is contingent upon how well you follow the requirements set forth by your employer.

What Happens Once You Return to Work After Having Undergone Addiction Recovery Treatments at a Licensed Rehab Facility?

After completing rehab and returning to work, individuals must do everything in their power to avoid relapsing as it can lead to disciplinary actions and even termination. Most employers are mindful that some employees will give in to cravings or temptation that can lead to them using again. For this reason, many will require those same employees to sign a return-to-work agreement (RTWA). For those not familiar with an RTWA, it is a document that outlines the expectations that an employer has for employees returning to work after having spent time in rehab.

And it needs to be followed to the letter. Some of the things detailed in these documents may include the possibility of undergoing and passing random drug tests as a condition of maintaining employment. Many RTWA documents will also outline the reintegration process involved in an employee coming back to work. For example, some of their duties might change if the employer added new clients or changed work protocols while the employee was away getting treatment for their addiction. That said, the onus is on the employees to carefully read over such documents and ask questions if they have any before getting back into the proverbial swing of things.

Bottom Line

All in all, maintaining employment is critical for one to function in today’s modern world. However, the same applies to breaking the cycle of addiction as well. Fortunately, the 1993 passing of the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA) makes it possible to do both. To learn more about FMLA or for help finding a rehab facility in your area, consider speaking with one of our caring associates today. Call us at 833-846-5669.