Using Your FMLA Benefits for Rehab
Taking a courageous first step towards sobriety is something to celebrate. But, for some working Americans, that celebration is short-lived. Nearly 70% of all adults battling addiction are employed. Some reach out for help, but others feel trapped by work obligations and can’t find the time for rehab.
In reality, you shouldn’t have to choose between job stability and treatment for substance abuse — and thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 — you don’t have to.
FMLA is a position placeholder, allowing you to deal with medical emergencies such as treatment for addiction without jeopardizing your job. It seals the gap between work demands and family emergencies, allowing you to take leave without the added stress.
Have you decided that inpatient treatment is right for you? Are you ready to take the first step to a fulfilling life and lasting sobriety? If so, Zinnia Health can help. We offer evidence-based treatments such as 12-step and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help you recover and move forward. Contact us to find out more.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was enacted by the United States Congress during President Clinton’s time in office in February of 1993. This act grants job-protected leave to individuals with specific needs in a non-discriminatory manner. FMLA outlines these needs in a section titled “qualifying conditions,” and they are as follows:
- The birth of a child or care of a newborn child
- Treatment of a serious health condition
- Caregiving for an ill close relative
- Treatment in a rehabilitation facility (this includes an addiction treatment facility for substance abuse treatment)
FMLA allows a covered person to take 12 work weeks of leave in 12 months. However, in special circumstances, FMLA can allow up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave in that same 12 month period. Any covered employer must comply with these regulations and allow their employees to take FMLA leave if they meet the requirements.
Who is Eligible for FMLA?
Although covered employers are required to accept FMLA requests, you must meet the eligibility requirements to apply.
To take leave under FMLA, you must meet the U.S. Department of Labor’s conditions for approval, which means you must:
- Work for a qualifying employer
- Have worked for at least 1,250 hours 12 months before leave
- Work at a company with at least 50+ employees within a 75-mile radius
- Have been in work for 12 months (These do not have to be consecutive, but the gaps shouldn’t be more than 7 years apart)
It’s important to note here that there are special leniencies for airline flight crew members and service members.
Can More Than One Household Member Use FMLA?
Yes, there isn’t a cap on how many people in a household can use FMLA. Any family member can request FMLA leave if they meet the above requirements. In addition, some family members can request FMLA leave to care for another FMLA-covered individual.
According to eLaws Advisors, “FMLA allows leave for an eligible employee when the employee is needed to care for a qualifying child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition.” “Needed to care for” includes assisting someone with a physical and/or mental health condition.
So, your spouse, for example, can use FMLA to care for you while you are in outpatient or inpatient care for treatment.
Using FMLA Multiple Times For Inpatient Drug Addiction Treatment
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing disorder marked by:
- Compulsive drug seeking despite negative consequences
- The inability to stop using drugs despite unwanted side effects
- Mental or physical changes caused by repeated drug use
- Withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
Addiction causes physical and mental disturbances for some, so treatment from more than one specialist or source is sometimes necessary. To stop using drugs, your specialist may suggest therapy or medication.
Drug addiction treatment might also include a 30+ day stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. As long as your employer meets the requirements for FMLA, you are entitled to use this benefit for inpatient rehabilitation. If necessary, you can use it more than once.
1. Can I Use FMLA Multiple Times in One Year?
Some people require more than one inpatient stay to reach their goal of lasting sobriety. For this reason, it might be necessary to go into rehab multiple times in a year.
If you need to attend rehab more than once in 12 months, you can use FMLA leave. There is no cap on how many times you can use FMLA in a year, as long as your stays don’t exceed 12 weeks in total. The U.S. Department of Labor, a federal government agency, defines repeated leave as intermittent leave and covers it under FMLA.
2. Can I Use FMLA Every Year?
In addition to using FMLA multiple times a year, you are also permitted to use FMLA every year. However, remember, that the same rules apply to the 12-week allotment and the 30-day notice you must provide your employer.
3. How to Use FMLA for Multiple Treatment Dates
If you decide to go back to inpatient rehab at any time after your first stay:
- Coordinate the stay with your program counselor
- Request the time off
- Coordinate any days you can use to convert your FMLA to paid leave
- Request an FMLA form from your employer
- Provide your physician the form to fill out and return it right away
If you or someone you know are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, Zinnia Health can help. Our medically-supervised detox and evidence-based therapies have helped thousands of patients like you reach lasting sobriety. Contact us at (855) 430-9439 today for the next step.
Is FMLA Considered Paid or Unpaid Leave?
FMLA secures your position while you receive inpatient treatment. However, this leave is unpaid. This federal law does not require your employer to pay you for your time off, but you can receive payments using benefits you already have.
If you want to convert unpaid FMLA to paid leave, you can request it.
To convert unpaid FMLA to paid leave, your employer may apply:
- Accrued vacation days
- Accrued or sick days
- Paid sick days
On the other hand, the UNC School of Law states that an employer has the right to require you to use all forms of accrued paid leave for FMLA. — even if you didn’t request it.
In addition, your employer must pay for your health insurance coverage while you’re out during FMLA leave. This way, you will not lose access to your health insurance benefits.
How to Use FMLA for Drug Rehab and Alcohol Rehab
To use FMLA for inpatient rehabilitation, your employer needs to verify the reason for your leave. Although your personal health information is protected, you must disclose enough for your HR department to decide if you qualify for leave.
If you don’t, the employer may deny your request for FMLA leave. This is where the line is somewhat blurred.
1. Does FMLA Violate HIPAA?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HIPAA (The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prohibits releasing and disclosing any personal healthcare information (PHI) to a third party.
However, HIPAA does permit PHI release if you:
- Provide written authorization by electronic means or in person
- Fill out the release form with the receiver’s information
- Sign and date the HIPAA release form (this is important)
Once you provide this written consent to your physician, he can, by law, complete the FMLA certification.
2. Can My Boss Fire Me for Using FMLA?
Your boss cannot fire you for using FMLA. However, if they have a policy against drug use you could be at risk of losing your job.
3. Can I Use the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and FMLA Simultaneously?
Under ADA an employer must:
- Extend reasonable accommodations to help individuals with a a serious medical condition continue their work
- Provide leave if medically necessary (includes rehab programs for substance use disorder)
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a mental disability (covered by the ADA) and a serious health condition (covered by FMLA). Therefore, if someone with post-traumatic stress disorder decides to go to an inpatient facility for treatment, they can do so under FMLA.
However, once that runs out, they may need additional treatment options, such as outpatient care multiple times a week. In this case, they can request reasonable accommodations under ADA.
If you need more information on how to use FMLA for your inpatient rehabilitation or access alcohol hotlines, contact Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, and as always, your call is confidential and obligation-free.