Can You be Fired for Going to Detox?

When a person deals with addiction, they struggle to find a way back to sobriety. Detox is usually the first step in this journey, and many people require an in-patient program to accomplish this challenging task. 

A person who works full-time might worry about taking this step and wonder if their boss can fire them for going to detox. These are important things to consider before entering a detox program. 

It is important to understand the protections in place for employees who seek treatment for substance use disorder. This guide provides all the information a person needs when they are considering detox:

What Is Detox? 

Detox is also referred to as detoxification or withdrawal. During this period of time, the person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol stops and allows their body to go through withdrawal. Most of the time, this period is done cold turkey, which means the person stops drinking or taking drugs completely. 

Occasionally, a doctor might prescribe another medication to help ease the detox symptoms or to step down from the drug they’re addicted to because going cold turkey might be dangerous to their health. 

Some common addictions that require detox in an inpatient setting include:

  • Stimulants, such as Adderall
  • Prescription painkillers, such as opioids
  • Tranquilizers, such as Ketamine
  • Sedatives
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ecstasy
  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol

During this period of detox, the patient can expect to feel withdrawal symptoms. Of course, the exact symptom a patient feels depends on the type of drug they were taking. Some common detox withdrawal symptoms include:

  • DTs
  • Tremors
  • Inability to sleep
  • Aggression
  • Leg cramps
  • Body cramps
  • Twitching
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Lower or increased heart rate
  • Decreased or increased blood pressure
  • Cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Some of these symptoms can be bothersome while others can be life-threatening, which makes it essential that a person detox under medical supervision to ensure their safety. This is a difficult period, and it is hard to ignore the cravings and withdrawal effects without giving in. 

The detox period varies for all people, and the type of drug plays a part in how long the person can expect the symptoms to last. However, within a week, some of the worst withdrawal symptoms should abate, and the patient begins therapy sessions. 

This part of detox and rehab provides the patient with the tools they need to avoid relapse once they return home. A patient cleans their system of drugs and alcohol during the detox process. 

Can an Employer Fire a Person for Going to Detox? 

The good news is that there are steps that a person can take to ensure that their employer can’t fire them for going to detox. The reason is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

In 1993, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the FMLA into law. This piece of legislation protects a person’s job when they need to be away from the office for up to 12 weeks due to medical reasons or to care for another family member who has a medical crisis. Under this law employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid time off without retaliation. 

However, there are a few conditions that a person must meet to be eligible for protection under the FMLA. This includes:

  • The person needs to have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. However, it doesn’t have to be 12 consecutive months, only a total of 12. 
  • The employer must employ a minimum of 50 people within 75 miles of the location of the person who wants to use FMLA.
  • In the 12 months before taking leave, the person must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer. 

The person going into detox must advise their employer that they plan to use their FMLA rights and provide any of the necessary paperwork. The human resources department should be able to help them navigate the paperwork.  

It’s important to take all the necessary steps for FMLA to make sure that the person’s job is protected during their time in detox. It makes one less thing for the person to worry about during this challenging time. 

Additionally, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prevented from discriminating against employees with disabilties. Mental and behavioral health conditions would generally be considered protected under the ADA. Therefore, employees worried about losing their job when they take a leave of absence for detox are protected. 

Tips for Talking to an Employer About Going to Drug or Alcohol Detox

When a person decides to go into detox for drugs and alcohol, it can be an emotional time, so they may find it difficult to talk to their boss about it. However, they need to ensure that their job is waiting for them. Here are some tips to make it easier to talk to an employer about going into detox:

  • It’s a good idea to request a set meeting time with the boss, so the person doesn’t feel rushed. 
  • The person seeking detox should tell their employer that they have a medical condition. 
  • The person might need to provide more details about their medical condition because the employer has the right to ask for certification. It’s better to be honest about the situation up front. 
  • The person should talk about how much they enjoy their job and working for the specific company. 
  • In some cases, the person’s performance hasn’t been up to their normal standards due to addiction. They can mention ways they look forward to improving their overall job tasks when they return. 
  • It’s essential that the person mention that they plan to use FMLA while they’re gone to hold their position. 

Communication is key when a person wants to return to a workplace after completing addiction treatment. This might be an uncomfortable conversation for someone to have with their employer, but it’s essential. 

Most employers want their employees to succeed in their positions and in their personal lives. Most people find that their employers are understanding and want to work with their employees to make the transition smoother. 


When a person needs to go to detox, it’s essential that they file for their FMLA rights to protect their job during their time in detox. The person wants to arrive in detox without avoidable stresses from their outside life to make it easier to concentrate on their recovery. In most cases, employees cannot get fired for going to rehab and seeking substance abuse treatment. 

Shahida’s Place offers a safe space for a person to go through detox and begin their recovery. Our dedicated staff members are caring and compassionate. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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