Drug and alcohol addiction is a rapidly growing worldwide disease. In regards to addiction recovery, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) helps many find treatment confidentially. FMLA is significant in West Virginia as the state is responsible for some of America’s highest rates of overdose. Since addiction is classified as a disease, the FMLA helps people maintain job security while seeking treatment for their substance use.  

What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Why Does FMLA Cover Addiction Treatment?

In 1993, Bill Clinton passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. The act entitles certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-secured leave per year. During this leave, group health benefits must be maintained by the individual’s employer. 

The FMLA lets employees take appropriate unpaid leave to help with specific medical or family reasons. It urges employees to balance their family and work responsibilities. Another aspect of the FMLA is that it promotes equal employment for both women and men. 

FMLA pertains to all public agencies, private/public secondary as well as elementary schools, and companies with more than 49 employees. Employers that FMLA applies to must provide each eligible employee twelve weeks of unpaid leave for one or more of the following reasons:

  • To care for, or for the birth of a newborn child
  • To care for a family member (usually immediate family such as spouse, child, or parent)
  • To take medical leave because of a severe health concern (leaving an employee unable to work) 
  • For placement with the employee of a child for foster care or adoption

Who Is Eligible?

An employee is eligible for leave if:

  • They work for an employer covered by FMLA
  • They have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the last year of their employment
  • They work in a location where their job employs a minimum of 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

In reference to the first bullet point, employers covered by FMLA are:

  • Any employer in the private sector with at least 50 employees who work 20 or more weeks a year
  • Any federal, state, or local government agency
  • Any private or public secondary or elementary school

FMLA for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

FMLA has shown success in giving workers more home-life balance. There are other laws, though, that support specific individuals in the job market. President George H.W. Bush passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. 

The ADA gives disabled American workers the same opportunities that anyone else would have. Therefore, employers must not discriminate against workers with any disabilities. Employers must also provide these individuals with any necessary accommodations for them to do their work.

Under the ADA, drug addiction and alcoholism are considered disabilities. Therefore, employers may not discriminate against any individual recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction. The ADA does consider addiction a special case, though. Individuals recovering from addiction are protected during the hiring process; however, employers have the right to fire an employee if their addiction interferes with their ability to work. 

How Can I Use It?

Qualification for FMLA depends on if an individual meets the eligibility criteria (stated above). When applying for leave, it is a good idea for employees to give their employer as much notice as possible. Employees will have the best chances of eligibility if they provide sufficient information. 

Will I Get Paid On Leave?

The FMLA is generally intended to protect employees from being fired when taking leave for up to 12 weeks. The employer doesn’t need to continue paying the respective employee during this period. Though it isn’t likely employers will continue to pay an employee during leave, they’re required to hold the individual’s position during an absence.   

FMLA in West Virginia

West Virginia follows the basic guidelines set forth by the FMLA. The FMLA policy in West Virginia also consists of an administrative rule that provides unpaid and paid leave if certain employees meet eligibility requirements. Since this rule and the law are both complex, each request for leave is individually decided on a case-by-case basis. 

Employers Responsibilities

In West Virginia, employers are responsible for complying with the provisions of FMLA, including:

  • Employers must provide employees with general information about their rights under FMLA and PLA (Parental Leave Act).
  • When employees request leave and meet each of the qualifying requirements, their employer must inform employees of their responsibilities and rights. If an employer finds an employee not eligible, they must provide a reason for the disqualification. 
  • Employers must notify eligible employees that their leave will be counted as either FMLA or PLA leave. 
  • Employers must continue benefits as long as they are applicable.
  • Employers must restore employees to employment once their period of leave concludes.
  • Employers must not restrain or deny any rights associated with the FMLA or PLA.

Employees Responsibilities

In West Virginia, employees are responsible for complying with the provisions of FMLA, including:

  • Employees must complete the leave request forms required by the FMLA. Sufficient information helps in the process of determining leave eligibility. 
  • Employees must make an effort to schedule leave so it does not interfere with their employer’s operations. 
  • Employees must submit payment for their benefits to continue.

Why Does FMLA Cover Addiction Treatment?

Utilize the FMLA for Addiction Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that addiction is a complex disease. FMLA protects those in need of addiction treatment since addiction is categorized as a disease. Substances alter the brain and often cause serious health problems. The physical traits of addiction make it almost impossible for victims to stop substance use without help. 

According to the United States Department of Labor, substance abuse and addiction are not always protected by FMLA. It sometimes depends on the particular company’s alcohol and drug policy.  

The department of labor states: “FMLA leave may only be taken for substance abuse treatment provided by a healthcare provider or by a provider of health care services on referral by a health care provider. Absence because of the employee’s use of the substance, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave.”

Employees and Addiction Treatment

The FMLA and ADA aim to provide job protection for individuals in unfortunate circumstances. Addiction is a common and devastating disease that affects West Virginia and the rest of the country. Individuals that suffer from addiction deal with extreme stress and pressure. The FMLA and ADA’s provided protection may slightly reduce some of the stress involved when choosing to attend treatment. 

Employers also benefit from the FMLA and ADA. Research shows that when employees feel protected in their workplace it helps both productivity and morale on the job. Statistics show somewhere between 25%-80% of employees in any workforce have arrived at work under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Addiction isn’t always obvious, and many people in the workforce who abuse substances can function normally. 

Addiction Treatment and Avoiding Stigma 

Not all individuals who struggle with addiction fit the stereotype. Many people who struggle with addiction have relationships, families, homes, jobs, and more. Addiction can creep into individual’s lives who would never expect it. Substance abuse may get out of hand rapidly, and people often don’t look to treatment as an option.

This is often because of the stigma related to addiction treatment. Those with a substance use disorder with serious job responsibilities may find it impossible to move into residential treatment. Addiction isn’t only a disease, but it can take over a person’s life. The FMLA and ADA in WV help individuals get the help they need while maintaining job security. 

To help individuals avoid the stigma related to addiction treatment, the ADA maintains complete confidentiality mandates. This keeps all medical information involving the ADA confidential. Therefore, employers must not disclose any information about any employee’s medical leave. 

Addiction and Mental Health in West Virginia 

In 2016, West Virginia accounted for the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in America. The CDC reported 52 deaths per 100,000 people in WV. This number is 163% higher than the 2016 national average. The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, says that one in ten West Virginia residents struggle with addiction. 

The FMLA for mental health and addiction is vital in WV. Both alcohol use and opioid use are rising in the state. With the FMLA and ADA’s support, both highly functional and less functional individuals struggling with addiction should feel confident in seeking addiction treatment.

Get Help Today

The FMLA is part of an effort to destigmatize addiction and addiction treatment. Addiction is a complex disease, and it may look different depending on each individual. When overcoming addiction and substance use issues, people shouldn’t feel entirely against the odds. Committing to treatment is difficult in itself, but the ADA and FMLA allow people to begin the recovery process and not worry about being fired from their job. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction or wants more information regarding FMLA, please contact us today.