For individuals suffering with addiction, treatment has not always been easy to come by. Persons with addictions face stigma, lack of access and concerns about losing their job. Substance use disorder is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as long as the individual is no longer using or if they are in a treatment program. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can also support people who need time off from their job to participate in addiction treatment. A recent news story shares how people in Wisconsin and other states may use this federal law to support their recovery. 

Many addicts do not seek treatment due to lack of health insurance or fears about losing their job. At least 9 percent of full-time workers suffer from substance use disorder. Addiction disorders can require extensive treatment, and the FMLA supports those individuals by allowing them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave away from their job for medical treatment without the danger of losing their employment. 

The FMLA does require an application process. First, a person must be a qualified worker under the guidelines of the FMLA. Additionally, an individual will need to notify their employer and determine whether their leave is officially FMLA. Your employer may then ask for medical certification, which is an extensive doctor’s note that must be provided within 15 days. An employer may not ask for medical records. 

After the conditions are met for the Family and Medical Leave Act, an employee is then able to take up to 12 weeks of leave without danger of losing their position. If an employee if not put back into the exact same job, an employer must find an equivalent position for the FMLA employee. As long as an individual meets the conditions for FMLA, they are entitled to the benefits of this leave program. In Wisconsin, if a person has been denied FMLA pursuant to either state or federal laws, but feels that they met the conditions for this program, he or she may wish to consult with an employment law attorney for an assessment of the case. 

Source:, “The Family and Medical Leave Act and Addiction Treatment“, Kristance Harlow, Aug. 8, 2017

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