Taking Leave From Work to Get Treatment

What is FMLA for Rehab? Millions of people across America suffer from some form of substance disorder. Millions more are affected by other mental illnesses. It takes time and effort to recover from these kinds of major health issues.

Unfortunately, many people never seek treatment. One potential reason for not getting help is fear of losing your job. But this fear may be unfounded. 

Why? Under certain circumstances, a nationwide law known by the acronym FMLA may protect you from getting fired. This is true if you seek treatment for serious substance problems.

It is also true if you have a serious mental illness not related to substance use. However, to qualify for FMLA protection, you must meet a number of important criteria.

What Is FMLA

What Is FMLA

The acronym FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act. This federal law was created to provide job protection for people who need a leave of absence to either:

  • Seek help for their own significant medical issues
  • Help close family members recover from such issues

There are two main provisions of FMLA, one for the general public and one for relatives of servicemembers. Qualifying members of the general public can get up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave within a year’s time. Acceptable reasons for taking this leave include:

  • Giving birth to a child and/or caring for that child
  • Adopting a child or taking on a foster child
  • Getting treatment for serious health conditions that leave you unable to do your job 
  • Caring for a parent, child or spouse affected these kinds of health issues

Relatives of servicemembers can take up the 26 work weeks of leave in a given year. You must use this time to care for an eligible servicemember who is your child, parent, next of kin or spouse.

Not all employers must allow unpaid leave under the terms of FMLA. The law only applies to employers who:

  • Have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
  • Provide these employees with at least 20 weeks of work per calendar year

In addition, not all employees qualify for protection under FMLA. To be eligible, you must:

  • Work for your current employer for at least a year
  • Accumulate a minimum of 1,250 work hours during the prior year

Does Rehab Qualify for FMLA

Does substance rehab qualify for FMLA protection? That depends on the details of your situation. Under the law, drug and alcohol addiction can qualify as serious health conditions requiring unpaid leave. 

Proper Use of FMLA for Treatment

However, you cannot take time off just because you have a substance problem. You must also seek treatment. In addition, that treatment must be given by:

  • A professional healthcare provider, e.g., a medical doctor
  • Another health services provider your healthcare provider refers you to 

Unless you seek help from these designated types of providers, you are not covered. Proper use of FMLA for treatment also has other requirements. Specifically, your condition must be serious enough to require inpatient treatment and/or continuing treatment

Under the terms of FMLA, inpatient treatment is defined as an overnight stay in facilities such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Residential facilities
  • Hospices

Treatment following your initial overnight stay is also covered. Things that meet the terms for continuing care include:

  • Being incapacitated for at least four consecutive days
  • Having a chronic health condition, e.g., addiction
  • Requiring multiple treatments as part of your recovery

Mental Health and FMLA

Mental Health and FMLA

What about your mental health and FMLA coverage? In other words, is protection provided for treatment of mental illness? The answer to this question is yes.

Today, experts view addiction as a form of mental illness called a substance use disorder. If you seek leave for substance treatment, you are technically seeking leave for mental illness treatment

FMLA coverage also applies to the treatment of other kinds of mental illness. You are protected under the provision allowing leaves of absence for serious health conditions.

However, you must meet the same terms that apply to seeking leave for substance problems. 

FMLA Dual Diagnosis Coverage

People with dual diagnosis are not only affected substance problems or a separate mental illness. Instead, they suffer from the effects of both of these conditions at the same time.

As a rule, it takes more time and treatment to recover from dual diagnosis. That is true because successful recovery requires treatment for both of your overlapping conditions. 

FMLA dual diagnosis coverage is also provided. This makes sense since dual diagnosis is a combination of two conditions already covered under the law.

As with separate substance problems and mental illness, you must meet all of FMLA’s terms for eligibility. 

FMLA and the ADA

ADA is a common acronym for the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. This law states that you cannot be discriminated against if you have a disability but can still do your job. That is true even if your employer must make special accommodations on your behalf.

Both physical and mental impairments qualify for protection under the terms of the ADA. This means that the law applies to people affected by mental illness. 

How do FMLA and the ADA compare? FMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees. In contrast, the ADA applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It also applies to certain types of employers regardless of their number of employees. Employers in this category include:

  • Labor unions
  • Employment agencies
  • Labor-management committees

There is no specific provision for paid leave in the ADA. However, leaves of absence may sometimes qualify as protected accommodations that allow you to work. You can be covered by FMLA and the ADA at the same time. 

Confidentiality and FMLA

What about confidentiality and FMLA? Under the terms of the law, all documents relating to your leave requests are viewed as medical records. As a result, they are confidential. To maintain confidentiality, your employer must store your FMLA paperwork separately from general personnel files.

However, your manager or supervisor may receive basic information regarding your unavailability for work. 

Employers’ Role In Treatment

Many people have insurance coverage provided through their employers. What happens to this coverage during your FMLA-related leave of absence? If you normally contribute to a plan obtained through your employer, you must continue to make your payments.

This is true even if you take unpaid leave. If you fall behind on payment by a month or more, your employer may terminate your coverage.

In addition, you bear sole responsibility in paying for coverage not provided through your employer. 

There is another important fact to consider regarding employers’ role in treatment under FMLA guidelines. Namely, the law will not always protect you from getting fired for taking a leave of absence. This is true even if you meet every qualifying term for FMLA coverage.

How can you still be fired? Some employers have blanket rules against substance use in the workplace. These rules apply to everyone, regardless of their situation. If you know about such a rule and fail to follow it, your employer can remove you from your job.

In this situation, you are not being fired for the leave of absence itself. Instead, your termination results from violating company policy. For this reason, your employer is acting within the law. 

Taking Time Off to Care for a Family Member

It is crucial to remember that the Family and Medical Leave Act does not only apply to you. It also applies to close family members. Even if you are not affected by substance problems, you can take a leave of absence to care for someone else.

The same holds true if a close relative suffers from another mental health issue. However, all of the terms that would apply to you also apply to your family member. Unless these terms are met, you do not qualify for FMLA protection. 

Seeking Help and Further Treatment Resources at Emerald Isle

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a vital support for people affected by substance problems or mental illness. These conditions may affect you directly. However, they may also affect a close family member. 

The terms of FMLA can protect you from getting fired if you need to take a leave of absence. However, only certain employers must honor this protected status. In addition, employees only qualify for it under limited circumstances.

Even if you qualify for protection and the law applies to your employers, you can still be fired in certain situations. Despite these restrictions, FMLA helps millions of Americans every year. 

If you take leave under FMLA, the next step is seeking help and further treatment resources. At Emerald Isle, we provide the services you need. We feature a full slate of programs for people affected by drug or alcohol addiction.

We also feature a full range of programs for people affected by mental illness.

In addition, Emerald Isle specializes in treating the combined effects of dual diagnosis. Whether you need inpatient or outpatient care, you can take advantage of our customized treatment plans.

Contact us today for more information on our many recovery resources.