If you’ve made the brave decision to get substance-free, you’re off to a fantastic start.

How about if you need to take time off work to attend a treatment program, though? You’re probably concerned about how this will impact your employment and financial situations and we’re here to help you address those issues today with a glimpse at the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and what it means for you.

The Family Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993 by President Clinton. This legislation allows employees to take unpaid leave without losing their job, provided their employer is covered.

FMLA conditions apply whether you reside in Oklahoma City or Louisville.

You want as little stress as possible when undergoing treatment for substance use disorder. FMLA legislation is there to protect you and give you peace of mind that your job is protected. You might qualify for benefits for short-term or long-term disability to help you make ends meet when you’re starting your road to recovery.


Frequently Asked Questions


1) Does FMLA cover drug treatment?

As substance use disorder is considered a serious health condition that interferes with work, this means that FMLA covers drug or alcohol treatment.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects a person mentally and physically, so rest assured that medication-assisted treatment is covered under this legislation.


2) How do I know if my employer is covered?

Employers are covered for FMLA leave if they have 50 employees who work for at least 20 weeks of the year. FMLA cover is also provided to school, state and federal employers, and public agencies.

Employers are required by law to communicate their rights with regard to FMLA leave via posters in work break areas and in information leaflets.


3) Do I have to tell my employer why I need time off?

Naturally, you don’t want your employer to know you have a substance use disorder. Some employers can fire their employees for substance use. However, an employer cannot terminate you for taking FMLA leave for drug or alcohol treatment.

You don’t have to give your employer your medical records, but they do have the right to request medical certificates with sufficient detail that proves you have a serious underpinning health condition.

Your physician may include information on your substance use disorder, but they may also document a mental health disorder as the reason for treatment.

Please be aware, however, that if your employer suspects your application is not genuine, they can request a second opinion. You shouldn’t let this prevent you from applying for FMLA leave and seeking treatment, though, as your job is still covered by the legislation.


4) Can I take paid leave with FMLA leave?

If you have accrued enough paid leave, your employer may stipulate that you take it during your FMLA leave. This means you will be paid during your time off and your job will be protected by FMLA.


5) Can I claim short-term and long-term disability with FMLA?

You can if you have disability insurance. FMLA is only there to protect your job and is unpaid.


As addiction is a mental health disorder, it is classed as a disability. This means that your insurance plan should cover both short-term and long-term disability.


Unfortunately, the SSA (Social Security Administration) will not approve benefits for addiction.


Short-term and long-term disability benefits replace part of your pay while you are away from work. How much you receive will depend on how much you earn, but payments typically cover 40 to 60% of your income.


Eligibility criteria will depend on your insurance policy and your state of residence.


You might want to consult a disability attorney to determine whether you can get financial assistance during your treatment.


6) How do I apply for FMLA?

You’ll need to provide your employer with at least 30 days of notice of your FMLA leave. So once you know your treatment dates, let them know immediately.

You don’t have to tell your employer your specific diagnosis. All they need is enough information to verify you have a serious medical condition.


7) How long can I take time off work?

FMLA permits you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from your job. Any time taken beyond FMLA leave will mean your job is no longer protected.

You can take FMLA leave intermittently if required. If you’re going for medication-assisted treatment, you will want to spend as long as you can as a residential inpatient.


8) How do I know if I’m eligible?

You are eligible for FMLA for leave if:

  • Your employer has over 50 employees
  • You are employed for over 12 months by your employer
  • You have worked 1250 hours minimum over the past 12 months, not counting any vacation or sick leave


9) Will my job be protected?

FMLA legally requires your employer to protect your job when you return. You will be able to return to your job with the same pay. If you are unable to return to your exact job, your employer must place you in a similar role with the same pay.

If you are moved to another job you must:

  • Receive the same rights, pay, and benefits such as life insurance, health insurance, sick leave, vacation, and pensions)
  • Be placed in a job with the same level of skill, experience, duties, and responsibility
  • Be placed in a job with similar shift patterns and hours of work


10) How long does my employer have to approve my application for FMLA leave?

Once you have notified your employer that you are taking FMLA leave they have five working days to approve your application. If they require medical certification, you will have 30 days to provide this.


11) What do I do if my employer violates my rights under FMLA terms?

On your return to work, if your employer does not place you in a job with equal pay, benefits, and conditions, you can report them to the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. To make a complaint, call 1-866-487-9243.