Can I take Time Off Of Work To Attend A Drug Or Alcohol Rehabilitation Program?
| Read Time: 2 minutes | Discrimination

Thankfully, yes. Millions of hard-working Americans suffer from the disease of alcoholism and/or drug addiction. The California Legislature recognizes this and has specifically passed laws to allow employees to take time off to voluntarily enter a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. This article will discuss both of them.

The California Labor Code

Under sections 1025-1028 of the Labor Code, employers with 25 or more employees must make reasonable accommodations to employees who voluntarily enter and participate in drug or rehabilitation programs. The phrase “reasonable accommodations” has been interpreted in California to include an unpaid leave of absence, reassignment to a vacant position, and adjusted work schedules or breaks. This means that employees who work for an employer with 25 or more employees can request unpaid time off to participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, as long as the time off would not pose an undue hardship on the employer. (In most cases it will not.)

If an employee has accrued sick leave — i.e., paid sick days — section 1027 of the Labor Code states that the employee can use these days during their leave. Employees can also request that the be allowed to use paid vacation days during their leave, although employers are not legally required to agree. For employees who are understandably concerned with keeping their decision to receive drug or alcohol treatment private, section 1026 specifically requires that employers make reasonable efforts to safeguard their privacy. This includes not disclosing the fact that the employee has enrolled in a drug or rehabilitation program.

The California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”)

The CFRA is California’s version of the Family Medical and Leave Act (“FMLA”), which is a federal law. Like the FMLA, the CFRA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for an employee’s own serious health condition. A “serious health condition” includes an illness or physical or mental condition that involves “[c]ontinuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.” Treatment in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program should satisfy this standard, and an employee can obtain a doctor’s note attesting that rehabilitation treatment is necessary.

Like time off under sections 1025-1028 of the Labor Code, leave under the CFRA is unpaid. However, employees can request to use accrued sick time or paid time off during their leave. Additionally, employees can apply for wage replacement benefits during their leave with the Employment Development Department (“EDD”) here.

Leave under the CFRA is job-protected, meaning an employer has to reinstate the employee who took leave to the same or comparable position. Employers face serious consequences for violating this protection.

To be eligible for CFRA leave, the employee must work for an employer with five or more employees within a 75-mile radius. (The requirement was 50 or more employees prior to January 1, 2021.) Further, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the request for leave.

What If My Employer Violates My Rights?

If your employer denies your request for time off to attend a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, it is important that you speak with an employment lawyer immediately. The compassionate attorneys at King & Siegel LLP have extensive experience in California leave laws, and have obtained significant compensation for employees whose rights have been violated. We provide free, no-strings-attached legal consultations, and are more than happy to speak with you. You do not have to navigate this situation alone.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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