The prospect of losing a job for taking time off is intimidating enough to inhibit potentially millions from seeking the care and treatment they need in order to recover. As a result, their addictions- life threatening and progressive- worsen, putting more than their job at risk. Knowing your rights for taking time off to receive treatment for an addiction, while maintaining your job status, will help you make the moves necessary to save your life- and your job.
Get Familiar with FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. Under this labor law, covered employers are required to provide employees with unpaid leave and a guaranteed job-protection for medical reasons. Since addiction is now widely seen as a medical issue, treatment for the illness of addiction is covered under the FMLA.
Employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical treatment during any 12-month period under the FMLA. After the 12 week period, when employees are ready to return to work, employers must give their employee the same or an equivalent position. Discrimination against addiction, alcoholism, or other mental health issues has been made illegal.
Before taking your leave of medical absence, check your eligibility for FMLA and familiarize yourself with your company’s medical leave policy. In addition, become familiar with your insurance policy benefits, work with your HR department, and set goals for treatment, as well as coming back to work.
Eligibility Requirements for FMLA:
You must be employed with the company for 12 months. Interestingly, the 12 months of your employment does not have to be consecutive. You can work for your company on and off for a period of twelve months and qualify. There are some specific stipulations, however. For example, if there has been a break in employment with the company for seven years or more you may not qualify unless the terms of that break meet certain requirements- like military obligations.
During the 12 months of your employment, you need to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours before the beginning of your planned medical leave. Called “hours of service”, these are actual working hours which do not include any vacations, sick days, or other circumstances causing an inability to work, either paid or unpaid.
Lastly, FMLA eligibility is only available in companies where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the registered worksite.
After checking your insurance benefits, speaking with your HR department, determining your eligibility, and working with your developing care team, it is time to give notice. Your HR department and company policy may require certain medical certifications or proof of care. When making arrangements for treatment like a residential inpatient or intensive outpatient program, leave a five day window if possible. Once you make a request for FMLA leave or your employer has gained knowledge of your qualified reasons for leaving, they are required by law to give you notice of eligibility within five business days.
During Medical Leave
The FMLA ensures that during your medical leave, your employer will continue to provide the full benefits of your job. Meaning, that during what may be a 90 day program for addiction treatment, your employer cannot suddenly cancel your insurance, limit your benefits, or in any way inhibit you from receiving the full potential of medical care. Your company may have policy about checking in and sending status updates on your care. Privacy laws protect your anonymity in treatment if you have not fully disclosed to your employer that you are going to treatment for a drug and/or alcohol addiction. If your HR department or employer calls your, or any, treatment center, they will not be given information about your progress unless you have specifically listed them to receive information. Otherwise, they will be met with the “I can neither confirm nor deny” statement treatment center employees are required to offer.
Coming Back To Work
During treatment for addiction, you will gain many skills for strategically and effectively coping with stress in and out of the workplace. Together with your care team and your HR department, you will create a plan for coming back to work and transitioning into employment again. It is critical to include maintenance appointments in your first year of recovery, including medical doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and any kind of outpatient or aftercare program which may be suggested to you. Under the FMLA, your employer is required to continue to allow you necessary time for these appointments and commitments. Other rights upon returning to work include:
- Returning to your same job or an equivalent job
- An equivalent job means: substantially equivalent pay, benefits, and job responsibilities
- Receive the same group health insurance benefits
- Employer continues to pay their contribution to your insurance premium
- You cannot have your rights under the FMLA interfered with
- Additionally, your employer cannot seek retaliation or retribution on you for using your rights under the FMLA
- You have the right to continue taking temporary leave for your health maintenance
At Tree House Recovery, we’re helping men find freedom from addiction. Our treatment programs create sustainable change for sustainable recovery by helping men find their strength in body, mind, and spirit. For information on our Orange County programs, call us today: (855) 202-2138