If my mother just entered a 30 day treatment facility for alcohol addiction, can her employer fire her?

UPDATED: Mar 6, 2012

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If my mother just entered a 30 day treatment facility for alcohol addiction, can her employer fire her?

My mom notified her employer that she had an alcohol problem 2 months ago after she missed several days of work. She began an out-patient treatment program and her employer stated that if she was doing that, she could keep her job. They told her if she missed work again she’d lose her job. This past weekend my mom relapsed, and by Monday she checked into a 30-day program. She notified her employer. I called her employer today, and he told me they were making a decision about what to do with her situation, and they were looking at their legal options. Does she need a lawyer? What can I do?

Asked on March 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If your mother and her employer are both covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (or it's state equivalent--but those laws have very similar eligibility criteria) and your mother specifically takes unpaid FMLA leave, then the employer most likely cannot terminate her for using such leave. However, otherwise, the employer probably can terminate her--the law does not make employers retain employees who cannot or do not show up at work, except as specifically required by a leave law, like FMLA.

To be eligible under FMLA:

1) The employer must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.

2) Your mother must have worked there full time for 12 months.

Given what is at stake, it would be worthwhile to consult with an employment law attorney--every situation is different, so it's hard to provide a truly global answer; however, you and your mother need to be prepared that unless she can use FMLA, her employer probably can terminate her.

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