If I recently told my employer that I had a drug problem and was going to rehab, was it legal if they fired me?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If I recently told my employer that I had a drug problem and was going to rehab, was it legal if they fired me?

I went to rehab and got clean to come back but was told I no longer have a job?

Asked on November 3, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If you were fired due to having an addiction, that *may* be illegal: addiction may be considered a medical condition or disability, and the law prohibits terminating someone due to a medical condition or disability. If this were the case, you may have a viable claim for compensation, and could either speak with an employment law attorney to explore filing a lawsuit, or contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency about filing a complaint.
However, if you were instead fired because you had unexcused absences from work while in rehab, which absences were not covered by paid time off (e.g. sick or vacation days) or the use of FMLA leave (assuming that both you and your employer were covered by FMLA--you can go to the U.S. department of labor website to see the criteria for when employers are covered and which employees are eligible for such leave), then you could be fired for your unexcused abosence from work; having a medical condition does not mean that you cannot be fired for what you do, only that you can't be fired just for having the condition. (You could also be fired if you acted inappropriately at work due to your drug usage.)
And you could also have been fired for using drugs--i.e. if you fired while actively using drugs (commiting a crime), that would be legal. But you cannot be fired for drug use after you have stopped using them.

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