Can You Lose Your Job for Going to Rehab?

Deciding to enter a drug treatment program can literally save your life. But some people delay taking this essential step because they fear it will cost them their job. But can you lose your job for going to rehab? Each case is unique, but both the law and your employer may offer protection and support.

Your Job Versus Rehab

If you’ve been wondering if you can lose your job for going to rehab, here’s some good news: Making the courageous choice to get help for an addiction to alcohol or another drug should not cause you to be fired or laid off.

Federal law offers some protection. Also, your workplace may have additional policies in place to protect your job while you are in rehab. If you are in a union, or if your employer has an employee assistance program (EAP), you may be able to access them for information about your rights and your options. Of course, if you have been using drugs while at work, or if you have been showing up for work while under the influence of alcohol or another drug, these protections may not apply. Employers typically have the right to terminate employees in these circumstances.

However, if you decide to get professional addiction treatment, and you haven’t been cited for an alcohol or drug infraction at work, you should be able to keep your job while you’re getting the help you need.

Can You Go to Rehab and Still Work?

In certain circumstances, it is possible to continue to work while you’re in rehab. This depends on three factors: your needs, the type of rehab program you’re participating in, and your job requirements.

If you need to detox before engaging in outpatient rehab, you may need to take some time off from work. 

Our outpatient rehab professionals can help you get through withdrawal safely and with minimal discomfort. However, even with this assistance, detoxing from alcohol or other addictive drugs takes a toll on the mind and body. Withdrawal may make it difficult for you to perform at work, so having some time off can be beneficial.

If you enter an inpatient or residential rehab program, you won’t be able to work while you’re receiving treatment. After all, these programs require you to be at the facility 24/7. But if you choose an outpatient rehab program, you may have much more flexibility. For example, when you receiving outpatient detox care at WAVE, you only need to be present at our facility for counseling. During non-treatment hours, your time is yours to use as you see fit. This may include continuing to work.

The requirements of your job can also influence if you will be able to continue to work while you’re in rehab. If your job offers flexible hours, or if you have the opportunity to take a few hours away from work on treatment days, you might be able to continue working while you’re in outpatient rehab. But if you have a strict work schedule, or if you need to be on-call around the clock, it may be more difficult for you to continue working while you are in rehab. 

Communication is key when trying to determine if you can continue to work while you are in rehab. Talk to your treatment provider and your employer to identify options that are best for your health. 

Can You Collect Unemployment While in Rehab?

According to the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you lost your job because you failed a drug test at work, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The only exceptions to this policy are if the test was unlawful or if it violated an existing labor agreement.

Similarly, you probably cannot collect unemployment if you quit your job, even to attend rehab.

PA’s Office of Unemployment Compensation also notes that a person must be “able and available” for work in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. You must also prove that you have been actively searching for work each week that you receive unemployment.

If you are in an inpatient or residential rehab facility, you probably won’t qualify for unemployment based on these criteria. However, if you’re taking part in outpatient rehab but also continuing to look for work, you may be able to receive unemployment.

To determine if you can collect unemployment while in rehab, contact the PA Office of Unemployment Compensation. You might also ask a representative of the rehab facility you are considering.

How You Are Protected If You Go to Drug Rehab

Two pieces of federal legislation can protect you from losing your job if you go to rehab. The first is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the second is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here’s a quick overview of how each can help:

Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. If your employer meets certain criteria, they must give you up to 12 weeks each year to receive care for a health condition. This includes mental illness and addiction. During this 12-week period, your employer does not have to pay you, but they must continue your group health benefits. You can read more about FMLA requirements for mental illness and addiction on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Americans with Disabilities Act: President George W. Bush signed the ADA into law in 1990. As described on this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), drug addiction that “substantially limits a major life activity” is defined as a disability under the ADA. Addiction is also considered to be a disability by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The ADA protects people from workplace discrimination if they have completed a treatment program or if they are currently participating in rehab.

Begin Drug Rehab in Philadelphia, PA

Drug rehab can put you on the path toward a much healthier and more satisfying life. WAVE Treatment Centers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, can provide you with the focused outpatient care you need. Our team can also explain the legal and workplace protections that may prevent you from losing your job. Contact us today to learn more.

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