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Can My Boss Fire Me for Going to Rehab?

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Addiction is a chronic and progressive condition that makes it difficult for you to focus on anything other than drugs or alcohol. If you struggle with substance abuse issues, you are not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, 10% of American adults struggle with a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.[1]

When you suffer from addiction, it can negatively impact every aspect of your life. Receiving professional treatment is the only way to make a full recovery from substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, 75% of people who suffer from addiction never get the help they need.[1]

Oftentimes, people avoid attending drug and alcohol rehab because they are afraid of losing their jobs. If you are currently dealing with the effects of addiction and refraining from getting the help you need out of fear of getting fired, you must be aware of the protections in place. There are laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that prevent your employer from being able to fire you for going to rehab.

Can You Get Fired For Going to Rehab?

For years, there has been a stigma surrounding alcoholism and drug addiction. While some people may still perpetuate this stigma, the general public is beginning to understand that substance use disorder is a disease that requires professional help. Advancements in science and understanding have made it easier for people who suffer from drug addiction to get the help they need.

Because the attitude surrounding addiction is beginning to improve, there are now laws in place that protect you from being fired from your job for going to rehab. These include:

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles you to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave if you meet the eligibility criteria. Because addiction is recognized as a diagnosable mental illness, you can use the FMLA to take unpaid leave without worrying about losing your job. However, you must consider the eligibility criteria before relying on this law.

To be eligible to use the FMLA to go to rehab, you must:

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before taking leave
  • Be employed by a company with at least 50 employees within 75 miles

Thankfully, it is extremely likely that you will meet these criteria. If you are wondering what a covered employer is, the U.S. Department of Labor defines this as a:[2]

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
  • Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

If you qualify and work for a covered employer, you cannot get fired for going to rehab, but you won’t receive a paycheck while taking your 12 weeks of medical leave.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

While most people meet the criteria for the FMLA, if you work for a small business you might not. Luckily, there is another law that prevents you from being fired for attending addiction treatment.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prevents employees from being fired due to a disability.[3] Under this law, addiction is considered a disability, and employers are not permitted to fire you for taking time off to receive treatment.

However, it is important to note that if you are found to be using alcohol or drugs while you are working, the ADA does not protect you from being fired. The ADA is only useful if you are looking to take time off to attend addiction treatment.

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Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

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How to Talk to Your Boss About Going to Rehab

If you intend on using either the FMLA or the ADA to take time off for drug and alcohol rehab, you are required to notify your employer. While speaking to your boss about attending addiction treatment can be scary and intimidating, planning what to say can make this process a bit easier.

When talking to your boss about going to rehab, you should:

  • Explain to your employer that you have a medical condition that requires inpatient medical treatment
  • Inform your employer that your condition is hindering your ability to perform at work and receiving treatment will improve your performance
  • Be upfront about your medical condition and ensure that you are prepared to show medical records corroborating your need for professional treatment
  • If your employer is hesitant on providing you with time off, explain to them that you have looked into the FMLA and ADA
  • Apologize to them for any inconvenience and reassure them that this process will allow you to return as a better employee

Overall, receiving professional treatment for your substance use disorder takes priority over your job. Addiction can lead to an array of long-term health consequences, many of which are life-threatening. If your employer gives you a hard time about getting the help you need, the FMLA and ADA protect you from being fired.

Start Your Recovery Today

At Woburn Wellness, we prioritize the needs of our clients by offering highly individualized care and only using evidence-based addiction treatment methods. Learn more about how our top-rated drug and alcohol rehab center can help you achieve recovery by contacting us today.


  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives
  2. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs28.pdf
  3. https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.pdf
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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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