Ask HR: Does rehab qualify for medical leave?

Dear HR,askHR

A current employee has inquired about alcohol rehab programs. My question is, if they took a couple of months off to get “sorted out” would they be able to continue employment after treatment?  Would that be a situation that falls under OFLA/FMLA?


HR Answer:

Alcoholism could be considered a “serious health condition” under the FMLA/OFLA. An employee may take FMLA/OFLA leave to enter a treatment program. FMLA/OFLA will not protect absences resulting from alcohol use or abuse, only leave for treatment is protected.

Alcoholism can also be a disability under the ADA if it substantially limits one or more major life activities of the employee. Employees may seek accommodation of their disability via a leave of absence for treatment or a part-time or reduced schedule to allow them to attend meetings and treatment-related appointments. However, Alcoholism, like any other disability, will not excuse poor performance, attendance problems, or other substantive performance issues. Employers may prohibit alcohol-related misconduct in the workplace. Careful consideration needs to be taken when adverse employment decisions are being made when employees claim they suffer from alcoholism and attribute performance issues to their disability.

If you would like assistance with the ADA, FMLA, or OFLA, or have questions about other employment issues, please feel free to contact us.