Saturday, November 26, 2022

Leave, Benefits May Be Available for Employees in Addiction Recovery

Do we need to give an employee protected time off to enter a residential facility for substance abuse recovery? Will she be eligible for State Disability Insurance?

Employees who request time off for substance abuse recovery may be eligible for protected leave under a number of state and federal laws.

Protected Leaves

California’s Labor Code requires an employer of 25 or more employees to provide time off as a reasonable accommodation to any employee who volunteers to enter an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, if it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Smaller employers may need to consider offering time off for substance abuse treatment as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Employers of 50 or more employees may be required to provide a leave of absence of up to 12 weeks for such inpatient rehabilitation under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and/or the California Family Rights Act.

State Disability Benefits

State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits may be available to your employee depending on what type of treatment facility she is in, how long her doctor certifies she will need treatment, and whether the treatment is offered by a court as an alternative to criminal confinement. While SDI benefits are normally available for up to 52 weeks, benefits are limited to shorter periods of time for residential substance abuse treatment.

An employee who is a resident of an approved alcoholic residential rehabilitation facility may qualify for up to 30 days of SDI. An additional 60 days may be paid if the employee remains a resident of the facility and the employee’s physician/practitioner continues to certify there is a need for continuing resident services.

An employee who is a resident of an approved drug-free residential rehabilitation facility may qualify for up to 45 days of SDI benefits. An additional 45 days may be paid if the employee remains a resident of the facility and the employee’s physician/practitioner continues to certify there is a need for continuing resident services.

No SDI benefits are available if a court has offered your employee the option to enter a residential drug or alcohol treatment facility as an alternative to serving time in jail as a result of committing a crime.


Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff Contact: Ellen Savage

Ellen Savage
Ellen Savage
Ellen Savage joined the CalChamber in 1990 and currently serves as an HR adviser. She has been assisting employers on the Helpline since 1993. She was the editor of eight editions of the California Labor Law Digest and author of the CalChamber's California Hiring to Termination Guide. Her experience also includes practicing at a large Sacramento law firm and presenting at dozens of employment law seminars statewide. She holds a J.D. from Lincoln Law School.

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