Many individuals who suffer from substance use disorders worry about the potential of being fired if they attend rehab. Unfortunately, this fear may be one of the biggest motivations behind people avoiding receiving addiction treatment. The good news is there are many different protections against this type of workplace discrimination.

Some civil rights laws protect individuals who need to attend rehab, including six federal acts. These federal acts include The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), The Fair Housing Act (FHA), Health Insurance and Portability Act of 1996, and The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Many people have pondered the question, “can I be fired for going to rehab?” Fortunately, in most cases, the answer is no. Let’s take a look at the protection acts set in place that prevent individuals from being fired for attending rehab.

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 is designed to protect individuals with all different forms of disabilities. Under this act, a disability is defined as, “…a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity;” which includes the inability to maintain basic hygiene, cooking, cleaning, working a regular job, etc.[1] This act applies to all private enterprises employing 15 or more people and all State and local governmental entities.

Substance use disorders of any kind are recognized as disabilities under these guidelines, therefore, causing them to be protected by this federal act. For instance, if an individual is having a hard time coping with their addiction and this shows up in their working abilities, they may request time off for addiction treatment under this act and, therefore, can not be fired for going to rehab.

Explaining The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Both The Americans With Disabilities Act and The Rehabilitation Act protect employees from being discriminated against in the workplace by prohibiting employers from refusing to hire, firing, or discriminating against employees with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to all entities who receive Federal grants, contracts, and aid.[2]

Under this act, employers are not allowed to deny a job or fire an employee because they are receiving treatment or are in recovery from a substance use disorder. This includes any addiction, from alcoholism to heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, meth addiction, etc. The only exception to this act is when the individual’s disorder prevents competent and safe job performance. In this case, the employee may be terminated, refused, or transferred.

Additionally, employers must provide accommodations (when necessary and reasonable) to enable employees with a disability to perform their job duties. Also, they must maintain confidentiality about any medical-related information they receive or discover about applicants or employees.[2]

What is The Workforce Investment Act (WIA)?

Originally intended as a way to invest in workforce education and pathways programs, the WIA has a large body of administrators and board members that work to oversee and enforce certain workforce protocols. Additionally, the WIA ensures that employers do not discriminate against their employees.[3] This act, therefore, includes an additional layer of protection for individuals in recovery that may be treated differently due to their substance use disorder, preventing some employees aren’t able to get fired for going to rehab.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968

Unfortunately, many individuals who suffer from addiction also experience an entire crumbling of each facet of their lives, due to the consequences of their addictions. While some people with a substance use disorder may be able to keep their jobs under protection acts, many lose their housing. Fortunately, The Fair Housing Act is intended to prevent the eviction of some individuals who are disabled.[4] Under specific circumstances, this act protects individuals suffering from addiction from being evicted.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

People in recovery also have additional protections, including privacy rules regulated by all of the above Federal Acts, as well as the Health Insurance and Portability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).  Under this act, employers cannot use medical information that they discover about an individual in the course of employment in a discriminatory fashion.

No one is permitted to be treated less favorably, if they are qualified to do the job, according to the terms and conditions of employment. Also, employers must keep confidential anything they learn about employee’s and applicant’s health conditions.[5] Fortunately, this includes addiction and treatment for substance use disorders, as long as the individual is sober or currently in treatment.

What is The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993?

The Family and Medical Leave Act protects individuals who need to take leave for medical reasons. This act provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work, annually, without the risk of losing their job. Also, the FMLA requires existing group health benefits provided by your employer to be maintained during your leave. Fortunately, substance use disorders are considered medical conditions.

This protection act applies to all public agencies, all school employees, as well as businesses employing 50 or more workers.

You’re eligible under the FMLA if:[6]

  • You have been working for your employer for 12 months or more.
  • You have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
  • You’re employed at a site where the company employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles.

If you meet these criteria, you can’t be fired for going to rehab when you take an FMLA leave of absence. However, you must be sure to request an FMLA leave before you enter treatment. You can be fired for going to a drug and alcohol rehab program if you don’t follow the formal FMLA process for requesting a leave of absence. By these guidelines, if you enter a treatment facility first, then tell your employer afterward, you’re not protected under this law.

Attending a Drug and Alcohol Rehab Program

Overall, if you follow the guidelines of one of these protection acts, you cannot be fired for going to rehab. If you or someone you love needs help for addiction but is worried about being fired, contact us today. CWC Recovery can help you or your loved one navigate the guidelines of the mentioned protection acts while providing you with effective and evidence-based addiction residential treatment.