Using Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) For Rehab in New Jersey
Last Updated: January 18, 2024
FMLA for rehab is a federal law that can provide certain employees job protection while getting the treatment they need to recover from addiction.
One of the most debilitating roadblocks to overcoming addiction is the fear of losing your job to take time away to get the help you need. Fortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a simple solution. Using FMLA for rehab protects your job while you get the treatment you need to recover and helps keep you on your feet after treatment.
Key Points of New Jersey FMLA Laws
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that can provide certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This program protects your job during your absence and ensures you retain your health benefits. FMLA was created to help workers maintain their health, balance work and family responsibilities and not be punished for needing medical care.
An employee can take time under FMLA to:
- Attend their child’s birth and subsequently care for the newborn
- Adopt a child
- Care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
- Recover from a serious health condition
FMLA for rehab falls into this last category. Substance use disorders can qualify as serious health conditions and interfere with a person’s ability to work.
What are the qualifications for FMLA? FMLA only applies to people who work in companies with 50 or more employees or at a public agency or a public or private elementary or secondary school. To qualify, an employee must also have the following:
- Worked for their employer for at least 12 months
- Worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months
- Work for an employer who employs 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius
If you meet all of these requirements, FMLA is a valuable tool you can use to protect your job while seeking necessary care.
New Jersey follows the federal guidelines of FMLA, but it’s important to differentiate between FMLA and the New Jersey Family Leave Act. Unlike FMLA, the New Jersey Family Leave Act only applies to those helping family members. It does not offer employees protected leave to deal with their health.
What Is FMLA?
The purpose of FMLA is to provide workers the time they need to care for their health or that of their family members. Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder shouldn’t automatically result in losing your job.
When you take FMLA with your employer, they are expressly forbidden by federal law to terminate your employment while you seek care. After using your 12 weeks or completing treatment and feeling ready to return to work, your job will still be waiting for you if you have complied with FMLA regulations.
How Does FMLA Work?
To take FMLA leave, you need first to notify your employer. Telling your employer as soon as possible is the best course of action. While you don’t need to inform your employer of a specific diagnosis, you do need to provide enough information to ensure FMLA covers your leave.
For example, you may tell your work that you have met with a mental health care provider who said you require inpatient treatment at a specialized facility. This should be enough information to verify that your leave results from an FMLA-protected condition.
At most treatment centers, the employees are well acquainted with the requirements for FMLA and should be able to guide you through the process. They should be able to help you provide enough information to make you eligible for FMLA while remaining discreet about your specific diagnosis. Reach out to your treatment center beforehand to ensure you have all of the materials required for your employer.
Is Rehab Covered Under FMLA?
You may wonder, “Does FMLA cover alcohol rehab?” or “Does FMLA cover drug rehab?” FMLA for drug and alcohol rehab are both included in the legal wording of federal law. Taking time off from work to attend substance use treatment is possible, provided your substance use falls into the category of a serious health condition and you take time off for treatment specifically.
The FMLA defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition requiring inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Substance use disorders fit within these categories, and rehab is considered a treatment for this condition. Importantly, substance use disorders alone are insufficient for taking FMLA; leave must be taken to receive treatment for this serious mental health disorder.
What Health Conditions Qualify for FMLA Leave?
Any serious health condition requiring treatment is eligible for FMLA leave. That includes injury, impairment or physical conditions that require treatment. Some examples include:
- Chronic back conditions
- Multiple sclerosis
- Multiple surgeries
- Severe injuries
To understand what conditions qualify for FMLA leave, know that any condition requiring overnight hospitalization or continuing treatment that a healthcare provider verifies is eligible for FMLA.
Can You Take FMLA for Mental Health?
Mental conditions requiring substantial treatment to recover from are eligible for FMLA leave. Examples of mental health conditions eligible for FMLA leave include:
- Substance use disorders
- Severe depression
- Nervous disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Any other condition that requires intensive treatment for a person to recover
Who Qualifies for FMLA?
To determine whether you qualify for FMLA, follow this simple checklist:
- Do you work for an employer with more than 50 employees, a public agency or an elementary or secondary school?
- Have you worked for your employer for at least 12 months?
- Have you worked 1,250 hours in the past 12 months?
- Does your employer have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the job location?
If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, you are eligible for FMLA leave. If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, you should look into other options to take leave for treatment.
Does FMLA Protect Your Job?
FMLA protects your job for up to 12 weeks when seeking treatment for a health condition or taking care of family members. Importantly, it only protects you from being terminated for taking leave, meaning your employer can still end your employment on other grounds. For example, if your workplace has a clearly stated zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace policy, you may be terminated for engaging in illicit substance use if you reveal this information to your employer. As such, it is important to be discreet with the wording of your FMLA request.
After you have completed treatment, other federal protections exist to protect your job. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits your employer from terminating you due to a disability. Substance use disorders are considered a disability under this act, though they must be in the past. This means that you cannot be terminated for having a history of substance use, though you can still be terminated for actively engaging in substance use.
How To Find Substance Abuse Rehab in New Jersey
When you’re ready to get help for substance abuse, reach out to the professionals at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper. Our team can help you through the FMLA process and support you throughout your recovery journey. With addiction treatment options that cover the full continuum of care, including medical detox, inpatient treatment and outpatient programs, there’s no better place to learn the tools of recovery and start your new life in sobriety.