Guest Blog by Jackson Sawa, writer for our friends at Dolan + Zimmerman, a criminal justice law firm based in Boulder, Colorado.
Using Family Medical Leave (FMLA) for Addiction Treatment
When it comes to making the decision of going to treatment, there are countless justifications people use to talk themselves out of receiving the help that they need. And, because going to treatment can be such a daunting prospect, many of these hesitations are completely understandable. However, what isn’t right is when people don’t receive proper treatment because they are convinced that they are unable to take the time off work for fear of losing their jobs. Here, we want to discuss how and why the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be utilized for time spent in treatment, while simultaneously protecting an individual’s employment.
What Is The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
Established in 1993, the FMLA is defined by the United States Department of Labor as “entitling eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.” In layman’s terms, this means that employees who are eligible for the FMLA will be able to keep their job while taking unpaid time off of work to deal with a family or personal health issue.
Who Is Eligible For FMLA In Colorado?
Colorado employers must comply with FMLA if they have at least 50 employers for at least 20 weeks that year or the previous. Nevertheless, there are still some requirements that any employee must meet in order to be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act in Colorado.
Employees are eligible for FMLA if:
- An employee has worked for the company for at least one year.
- Worked 1,250 hours in the previous year
- Work at a location with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius
What Is FMLA Leave Typically Provided For?
If a Colorado employee is eligible for FMLA, leave is available for a wide scope of both familial and medical reasons. According to the U.S.Department of Labor, eligible individuals are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- The birth of a child and caring for the newborn child within one year of birth
- Adopting or fostering a child and caring for the newly placed child within one year of placement
- To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job
- Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”
Does The FMLA Cover Substance Abuse Treatment?
Because the FMLA grants leave for any ”serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job,” substance abuse definitely falls under that category. Substance abuse is a disorder that heavily affects all aspects of an individual’s health, and thankfully, employees in need of specialized treatment will have their jobs protected under FMLA. As explained by the American Addiction Centers, “For individuals suffering from addiction, those 12 weeks of medical leave can be the beginning of a journey toward recovery, and that in turn can yield many benefits for themselves and their employer.”
Connection Between The FMLA And ADA
Thankfully, alcoholism and drug addiction are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, when it comes to addiction, the ADA can’t be used as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Addiction is covered under the ADA, but only during the hiring process. This means that employers have the full right to take action against their employees if their substance abuse problem begins to affect their work.
Why Use FMLA For Treatment?
If you are struggling with substance abuse, the FMLA is a tool put in place to help you. It is designed to give people a chance to get a handle on things before it is too late. This way, they may be able to help themselves before their substance abuse results in serious ramifications. In many cases, termination from employment could have been avoided had an individual utilized their FMLA leave to get the help they needed when they had the opportunity to.
Our team is available to help you through the process of taking FMLA for treatment. Contact us to learn more.
About the Author:
Jackson Sawa works contributes as a writer for Dolan + Zimmerman LLP, covering a number of legal topics. When he isn’t at his computer, you can usually find him outside or researching something that only he finds interesting.