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Can My Boss Fire Me For Going to Rehab?

Long periods of heavy drug or alcohol abuse can change how a person’s body and brain work. These changes make it very challenging for people to overcome addiction without professional treatment. 

Despite the harm addiction causes to a person’s mental health, body, and relationships, many people do not get the treatment they need to overcome the condition. Some studies show that only about 11% of all who need addiction treatment get help.[1] 

Many barriers can prevent people from getting the help they need. The stigma of addiction, financial concerns, or worry about leaving family members may cause people to put off seeking treatment. 

Another common concern about going to rehab is that their boss may fire them. However, current federal laws protect people from being fired for seeking mental health or addiction treatment. Knowing your rights can help you confidently seek the life-saving treatment you need. Contact the Mandala Healing Center staff for more information about keeping your job while going to rehab

What Problems Does Substance Abuse Cause at Work?

There are many people in the country’s workforce living with untreated addiction. Most of the people currently living with substance abuse are also employed. Untreated substance abuse and addiction cost employers and communities a lot, both in productivity and increased workplace problems. 

Some research suggests that 10-25% of working people live with substance use issues or addiction.[2] Living with addiction while working can lead to interpersonal problems, accidents, and absences. Addiction in the workplace negatively impacts productivity and leads to more injuries and disruptive incidents. People with substance abuse and addiction are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and interpersonal difficulties. They contribute to decreased productivity and may have frequent absences. 

After getting the treatment they need, many people can return to work and contribute to their communities again. Because of this, many employers support their employees’ addiction treatment and recovery.  

What Type of Addiction Treatment Program Do I Need?

No two people have exactly the same experience with addiction and recovery. People’s needs can vary greatly. To meet people’s different needs, there are many different levels of care in addiction treatment, including:

  • Outpatient programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
  • Residential or inpatient treatment programs

People may be able to continue working or stay connected with their employers while receiving treatment in an outpatient program. But sometimes, people must take a leave of absence from work to attend residential or inpatient treatment programs. 

Regardless of the level of care you require, if you need to take time away from work, specific federal laws protect your employment and prevent your boss from firing you for going to rehab. 

Can My Boss Fire Me For Going to Rehab?

Several laws protect people’s employment during addiction treatment. These laws allow people to seek life-saving treatment without worrying about losing their job. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family Medical Leave Act protects your job for up to 12 weeks while you receive addiction treatment. There are some criteria you must meet to be covered by FMLA, including: [3]

  • Your company must have at least 50 employees
  • You must have been working at the company for 12 consecutive months and must have worked at least 1250 hours before taking a leave of absence for rehab
  • You must be enrolled in a professional treatment program during your leave of absence

If you meet these criteria, your job will likely be protected under FMLA while you seek rehab or mental health treatment.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from firing or discriminating against employees with addiction. Under the ADA, you may be eligible for an altered work schedule that allows you to attend treatment or recovery activities, including 12-step meetings, screenings, or medical appointments.[4] It may also protect your job while you go to rehab.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This law provides additional protection for job applicants and employees against discrimination based on disability in federal financial assistance, federal contractors’ employees, federal agencies’ activities, and federal employees.[5]

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

This law secures the confidentiality of your medical and mental health information. It prevents your employer from accessing your medical information without your permission. 

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Job During Rehab

Beginning a conversation about going to rehab may feel overwhelming. Knowing your rights and what steps to take may boost your confidence. 

Get a diagnosis

Talk to your medical provider about getting a formal substance use disorder diagnosis.

Find the right treatment program

Research local treatment options to find a good fit. You may get referrals from your insurance company, doctor, or addiction specialists. You may also reach out to facilities’ staff directly.  

Talk to HR

Tell your HR representative that you need to take a leave of absence to complete addiction treatment.


Communication is extremely important. Tell your employer when you intend to return to work and keep them informed if your plans change. If you don’t communicate or fail to inform your boss that you are taking FMLA, he or she may be able to fire you for going to rehab. 

If you live with substance abuse or addiction, you must seek treatment so that you can put the addiction behind you. Living a healthy, sober lifestyle can help you be more productive and fulfilled at work–and for the rest of your life. 

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love need addiction treatment, reach out to the Mandala Healing Center staff today.