How to Protect Your Job
Taking a Leave of Absence from Work for Detox

Alcoholism is a complicated condition, one that thoroughly affects every area of a person’s life. Because alcohol is legal and because alcohol consumption is such a standard part of American culture, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you’re suffering from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. If you do determine that professional help has become necessary, you likely have a laundry list of related questions and concerns. One might be: can you be fired for going to rehab? Rest assured there are numerous laws in place to protect a person and their job while they seek treatment. Also rest assured that at CuraSouth we prioritize confidentiality, closely abiding by HIPAA laws and providing each of our clients with a high level of discretion. Don’t let a fear of judgement or job loss prevent you from seeking the professional care you need. Contact us today to learn more about taking a legal leave of absence to seek treatment.

FMLA Protection

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave every calendar year, assuming they meet a specific set of criteria. Because alcoholism is considered a diagnosable medical condition, FMLA covers alcohol detox, rehab and other behavioral healthcare services. It applies to all public companies with more than 50 employees in a 75 mile radius.

If you meet the following guidelines you are eligible for FMLA:

  • You have been working for your current employer for at least 12 full months (one year).
  • You have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
  • Your company has more than 50 employees.

If you do make the decision to take an FMLA protected leave of absence it is important for you to request leave before admitting yourself to alcohol detox. At CuraSouth we are able to walk you through this process, providing guidance and answering any additional questions you may have.

ADA Protection

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law protecting employees who struggle with a disability of any kind, physical or psychological. If you require professional alcoholism treatment and you take an extended leave of absence, you cannot be terminated under ADA. However, it is important to note an employer who is actively drinking on the job can still be terminated. Many employers require their employees to sign a contract upon being hired which says they will stay sober while at work. If your boss finds out you have been drinking while on the clock they can make the decision to fire you based on this contract being broken.

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Talking to Your Employer

Should you talk with your employer honestly about your decision to undergo treatment in a medical detox center? The answer to this question depends heavily on your personal circumstances. Are you close with your boss? Do you feel like your boss would be understanding of your situation? There is no rule saying you need to explain to your boss why you’ve decided to take a protected leave of absence. If you think doing so might compromise your career, it is probably better to keep your sobriety private. However, if you have a good relationship with your boss and you feel comfortable speaking up about your personal struggles, being honest about your situation could benefit you in the long run. Many companies offer recovery resources to employees who have been suffering from a substance use disorder. Most employers are simply happy about a valuable employee taking the time and initiative to heal. Below are several examples of ways you might address the situation or bring it up during conversation. If you do decide to speak with your boss in person we recommend requesting a one-on-one meeting.

You might say something like:

“I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. I was hoping to discuss something with you. I’ve been drinking more than I think is healthy, and I have had a difficult time quitting on my own. I know that while I’m drinking I can’t be the very best version of myself or the best employee. I found a detox center and I’d really like to nip this thing in the bud and begin living a healthy, sober life.”


can i get fired if i go to alcohol detox

“I’ve been struggling with some personal issues recently, and my mental health has been suffering as a result. I was hoping to take an FMLA-protected leave of absence while I address these issues. It’s important to me to consistently do a great job and pull my weight, and I think I’ll be better equipped to live up to my potential if I address these issues now.”

You are not required to divulge any more information than you feel comfortable divulging. You have every right to seek treatment on your own accord without broadcasting where you are going or what you are doing. However, because alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the workplace cause significant problems for employers, they tend to be grateful when an employee takes the initiative to get sober.

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Alcoholism in the Workplace

Alcoholism affects every industry in the U.S. through a combination of workplace accidents, lost productivity, absenteeism and low morale. According to an article published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, employers lose billions of dollars annually because of alcohol and drug abuse. The article states, “Combined data from 2008 to 2012 indicate that an annual average of 8.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 used alcohol heavily in the past month, 8.6 percent used illicit drugs in the past month, and 9.5 percent were dependent on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year. The highest rates of heavy alcohol use in the past month among full-time workers aged 18 to 64 were found in the mining (17.5 percent) and construction industries (16.5 percent).” Rates of substance abuse were also particularly high among service industry workers, particularly restaurant servers and kitchen workers.

Issues linked to alcohol consumption before work or on the clock include:

  • Showing up late to work.
  • Falling asleep on the job.
  • Significant loss of efficiency.
  • Poor decision making and problem solving skills.
  • Preoccupation with alcohol while at work.
  • Theft and other illegal activities.
  • Higher turnover rate/more employee training.
  • Conflict with co-workers and employers.
  • Disregard of safety procedures.

People who struggle with alcoholism while they are employed use roughly three times as many sick days. They are five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim, and they are significantly more likely to injure themselves or someone else on the job. Taking the time to enter into an alcohol detox program might seem unnecessary, but consider how much your productivity is going to increase long-term if you get a handle on your drinking problem sooner rather than later.

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Contact Us Today to Get Started

At CuraSouth we have developed an admissions process which makes seeking professional detox simple. As soon as you or your loved one makes the decision to contact us we begin by conducting a brief pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine which detox methods are going to be the most effective. We answer any additional questions you might have about FMLA, ADA or covering the cost of detox. We then help arrange reliable transportation to our Tampa Bay detox facility. Contact us today and get started on the road to alcohol addiction recovery.

Travis Atchison

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Clinical Director:

Travis Atchison

Travis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Addiction Professional. He has worked in various community-based settings, where he served families and couples, addressed issues related to homelessness and crisis and worked in a substance abuse setting.