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Do Employers Have to Pay For Rehab?


Do Employers Have to Pay For Rehab?

The effects of employee substance abuse extend far beyond the individual. Especially if an addict’s job is dangerous – such as working in construction or as a bus driver – others in the area may be endangered because the individual is under the influence. Although there are more finite laws about employee drug testing, many people also wonder, “Do employers have to pay for rehab?” If not, then who does? Below, our Banyan rehab center shares more information about drug addiction employee rights and rehab.

Understanding Employee Drug and Alcohol Policy

There is no requirement for most private employers to maintain or enforce a drug-free workplace policy. The exceptions to this are federal contractors and grantees in safety and security-sensitive industries and positions. Drug-free workplace policies can be divided into two categories.

The first includes laws like the Drug-free Workplace Act of 1988. These laws specifically target workplace substance abuse and compel certain types of employers to take action against drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace, such as by developing a drug-free policy.

The other category involves laws designed to protect the civil rights of employees. These statutes provide legal protections to certain kinds of employees to prevent loss of employment and prejudice. They set clear limits on how severely employers are required to investigate and establish consequences for employee substance abuse. This also includes determining who pays for drug rehab.

The most important and common federal laws and regulations that fall in this second category include:1

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993
  • The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935

Employers looking to drug test their employees should seek legal counsel to avoid lawsuits for invasion of privacy, wrongful discharge, defamation, and discrimination. In addition to securing legal counsel, employers can also avoid litigation by making sure all of their policies are implemented fairly and consistently and are shared and understood by all employees.

Does an Employer Have to Pay For Rehab?

So, does an employer have to pay for rehab? No, employers are not required to pay for an employee’s rehab for addiction. However, there are other requirements employers must follow in cases of employee substance abuse. These include the following:1

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: This act prohibits all U.S. employers with over 15 employees from discriminating against qualified job applicants and employees because of a physical disability. While the ADA does not prevent employers from having a drug-free workplace policy or protect individuals who are currently using illegal drugs, it does make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people in addiction recovery who have already sought drug or alcohol addiction treatment in the past.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A law that prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against people based on race, sex, religion, or nationality. In cases of drug or alcohol abuse, employers should be careful to treat all workers equally and avoid singling out any racial, ethnic, or gender group for drug testing or disciplinary action.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993: This act applies to all public agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees. Under FMLA, employers must allow employees who have worked for them for at least one year and who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to a serious health condition or to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition. Based on FMLA, eligible employees can leave to undergo addiction treatment, treatment for a physical illness or disease, and to care for a close family member who is undergoing treatment for these conditions. These employees have the right to return to either the same or a similar (equivalent) position when their leave ends. FMLA also protects employees who take leave from retaliation from their employers. For instance, an employer cannot demote, fire, or refuse promotion to an employee because they took 12 weeks off for treatment or to care for someone in outpatient or residential addiction treatment.
  • The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935: Under NLRA, any drug-testing program affecting unionized workers must be negotiated and agreed upon with the union through a formal bargaining process.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Going to Rehab

Although your boss doesn’t have to pay for your rehab, it’s still important for you to tell them your plans. This is both to enable you to keep your job and to make them aware of your situation. If you’re worried about broaching this topic with your employer, here are some tips that may help:

  • Have the conversation sooner rather than later. Because drug and alcohol abuse can quickly spiral out of control, you should talk to your boss as soon as you can. They’ll appreciate your honesty and openness.
  • Do your research. It’s important to be familiar with your company’s policies. You can read through your employee manual or look online for details about your company’s policy and resources for employees struggling with substance abuse. If you can’t find any information, check with Human Resources.
  • Understand your legal rights. Knowing your rights will make it easier to ask for the help and resources you need to get sober and/or sustain your sobriety. Unfortunately, some employers will try to negate your rights and the law, so it’s important to be informed before you approach this conversation.
  • Don’t tell your coworkers before your boss. Office gossip spreads. You’ll want the opportunity to explain your situation to your employer without having to deal with any misinformation that might be floating around your office.
  • Have your treatment plan lined up. You can reach out to addiction treatment facilities like our Banyan rehab locations that offer rehab to people who are working or taking leave. It’s not only organized, but the responsible thing to do is to have a plan in place before mentioning addiction treatment to your boss.
  • Be straightforward. Make sure you are clear with your employer about the time you need to take off for rehab. Even if you think that you can manage to go to treatment and work, remember that you might experience withdrawal symptoms and may require more rest than you anticipated. You may be drained after drug detox and treatment, or you might need some time to focus on applying the skills you learned to your daily life.
  • Be honest. Open up to your boss and express your desire to get better both in your health and in your work. If you’re in active addiction, chances are that your boss and coworkers already suspect a problem. Lying about your reason for leaving may not only jeopardize your job position but also might make it seem as if you’re abandoning your position rather than getting much-needed help. Being honest about going to rehab will show your boss that you’re serious about getting better and getting back to work.

Employee Substance Abuse Treatment at Banyan

With Banyan Treatment Center locations nationwide, our family of facilities offers a variety of rehab programs that address all kinds of substance use disorders. In addition to multiple levels of addiction treatment, our rehab centers also offer a Corporate Recovery Program that provides employees who are battling addiction the individualized care they need.

For more information about our Banyan addiction treatment, call us today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information, and we’ll reach out to you.


  1. SAMHSA - Federal Laws and Regulations

Related Reading:

Going Back to Work After Rehab: Tips That Can Help

How to Tell if an Employee Needs Treatment

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.