Protecting Your Career When Seeking Treatment at Changes

You know that you need addiction treatment but you’re worried about the outcome of your long-term employment. Instead of coming to rehab worried about your job security, we can help you figure out how to go to rehab without losing your job. What protections are available for you?

While you can be fired for decreased performance and breaches of the code of conduct, there are some practices for seeking help. The Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act offer some protection from being fired and discriminated against upon your return. HIPAA also protects your confidentiality.

Changes Healing Center offers the help you need for drug or alcohol use at any level while helping you keep your job after substance use disorder treatment. Our admissions team can answer your questions and can guide you toward treatment without jeopardizing your job.

Keep reading to learn more about protecting your job while receiving help for substance use disorders.

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Can You Be Fired for Substance Abuse Treatment?

For many employees, the main question is whether they can be fired for attending addiction treatment. Going to rehab on its own is not grounds for dismissal from your place of employment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in the clear to keep your position.

Employers have the right to terminate you before seeking treatment if you have had a steady decline in the quality and output of your work. In most cases, though, admitting to drug and alcohol use during a drug test only results in termination if the employer feels that your work has suffered.

Of course, they may also terminate you if you breach their code of conduct while you are engaged in substance use, such as using or selling illegal drugs on the premises. These circumstances can both result in a court case, as well as lead to legal protections for employers who want to fire someone who has yet to receive treatment for substance use disorder.

On the other hand, employees who are proactive have many legal protections when seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.

Legal Protections when Seeking Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder

Family and Medical Leave Act for Addiction Treatment

Federal law protects you if you decide to seek treatment for your substance use disorder. From FMLA to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, you have some grounds to get the help you need without putting your job in jeopardy. Here is what you need to know about the legal protections for rehab.

Using the Family and Medical Leave Act for Addiction Treatment

One option that enables you to seek substance abuse treatment without losing your job is to take a protected leave using the Family and Medical Leave Act. Enacted in 1993, the FMLA program enables you to take an extended leave of absence from your position to seek medical treatment for you, your spouse, your child, or another immediate family member.

While you’re out on FMLA, your employer can’t take any action against you for leveraging your protected leave. You’ll have a position to return to after you seek treatment without worrying about being demoted in your absence.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an open-ended leave though. Instead, it covers twelve weeks of treatment which are unpaid and are not reimbursable under any situation. Most inpatient rehab programs last between 30 and 90 days, so you should have time to receive excellent inpatient care before FMLA is over.

Alternatively, you can attend a short rehab treatment program and take additional leave to transition to an outpatient rehab program. This gives you time to get your feet under you before returning to a more stressful position in your place of employment or to get a loved one settled.

What are the FMLA Stipulations for Substance Abuse Treatment?

Under federal law, the FMLA program offers you an avenue to pursue treatment for drug and alcohol use without fear of retribution from an employer. However, not all employees are eligible for this leave. You should know the ins and outs of requirements before requesting your twelve weeks for treatment.

FMLA is available to employees at any private or public business that has more than fifty employees. Those who are employed by small businesses may not qualify for this extended leave of absence.

Additionally, you can’t seek treatment immediately upon being hired. Eligible employees must work for at least one year with a minimum of 1,250 hours during that time. This means that you don’t necessarily have to work full-time to qualify, but you do have to put in the time before you’ll be able to take advantage of FMLA.

It is worth noting that an option for rehab through a private facility such as our programs at Changes Healing, rather than employee assistance programs (EAPs) offers more discretion, and divulging the purpose of FMLA leave is not required.

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Protection Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

People who qualify for FMLA from their employer might still be worried about what going to rehab will do to their career. The good news is that you can take a deep breath and relax, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s been around since 1990 and offers you the protection you need.

Under this legislation, your employer can’t discriminate against you for seeking help for an alcohol or drug addiction.

In other words, they can’t refuse to hire you based on having received drug and alcohol rehab treatment in the past and they can’t refuse you a promotion because you sought care. Just because you are taking FMLA leave to go to a substance abuse treatment facility doesn’t mean they can demote or fire you.

The ADA applies in all circumstances surrounding your employment. Unlike FMLA which requires you to meet the criteria before taking leave, there are no criteria to hit for coverage.

HIPAA Protects Confidentiality from Employers

HIPAA Protects Confidentiality from Employers

In some situations, you may not want your employer to know the details of your substance use disorder, whether they are aware of past drug use or not. This knowledge could result in discrimination at the office and cause you to suffer the stigma of having to receive drug rehab support. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects all of your sensitive information.

All medical health and mental health records are protected by HIPAA, which means that your employer has no access to these notes.

You can rest easy knowing that your confidentiality is protected by federal law, enabling you to get the addiction treatment you need without worrying about prying eyes on your chart. Only people that you stipulate can receive information about your treatment, such as a spouse or family member who may need details to better support you.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Discrimination

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects you from workplace discrimination for past alcohol and drug use. It also provides increased access to programs that are funded by the federal government and federal employment. A history of disability (including substance use disorder) is no longer grounds for not being hired by a federal entity.

Other protections under the Rehabilitation Act (sometimes also referred to as the Rehab Act) provide a framework for minimizing discrimination in programs that receive federal financial assistance, in federal employment, and in the hiring of federal contractors.

Seeking Outpatient Treatment Instead of Going to Rehab

Outpatient Treatment

An inpatient rehab program is often the first step toward sober living, but it may not be accessible to all. If you worry about taking an extended leave of absence from work, discrimination, or gossip upon your return to work, then you may want to fly under the radar. Residential treatment isn’t your only option at Changes Healing Center.

We also offer an intensive outpatient rehab that follows evidence based practices as set forth by SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and that enables you to attend your job while also receiving the support you need to get a handle on drug and alcohol misuse. Attend sessions for a few hours each week including individual therapy, group therapy, and support groups.

Even a partial hospitalization program where you attend rehab during the day and return to your life at night can be a helpful way to receive treatment without necessarily having to notify an employer. Think about all of the flexible options you might have available to you when seeking treatment.

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Protect Your Job and Get Help from Changes Healing Center

No matter what prompts you to think about going to rehab, you want to ensure your job is protected when you graduate. We can help you find a treatment program that works with your daily schedule and the exact level of help you require to get sober.

Let our caring team at Changes Healing Center come alongside you to get the help you need. Whether you want inpatient or outpatient rehab, we can help you find a level of care that works for you. You can cope with a serious health condition with the help of our treatment team without putting your job in jeopardy.

Let our enrollment team talk about your options and verify your health insurance benefits with a quick phone call today!


  1. U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.-j). Family and Medical Leave Act.
  2. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (n.d.-j). U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2024, April 19). HIPAA Home.
  4. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.-l). The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.