The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is a federal labor law that provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year without the threat of job loss. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in mid-March, countless employees across the nation have been forced to take time off of work due to medical and family reasons.
It wasn’t until April that the Families First Coronavirus Virus Response Act went into effect, enabling employers to keep workers on their payrolls. While COVID-19 is now a qualifying event under emergency FMLA, it is not the only medical condition covered under FMLA.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most common reasons for requesting time off under FMLA. If you are unable to work due to extreme morning sickness or another pregnancy-related ailment, you may need to take leave.
In some cases, a physician will prescribe bed rest for a pregnant woman, such as in the case of preeclampsia, eclampsia, poor fetal development, gestational diabetes, oligohydramnios, concerning cervical changes, preterm labor, or a history of pregnancy loss or stillborn. Often, an expectant mother will be put on bed rest if she is carrying multiples.
Childbirth is also a qualifying event under FMLA. Formally known as maternity or paternity leave, 12 weeks of leave is guaranteed for employees for childbirth and family bonding time following the birth. Unless otherwise agreed with by the employer, this period of leave must be taken as a continuous block of time.
To allow for the direct care of a newborn for longer than 12 weeks, one parent may choose to stay home for the initial 12 weeks and the second parent may stay home for 12 weeks after that. However, there is no set amount of time that parents must stay home after childbirth and some parents may choose to extend their leave for up to 12 months.
Chronic Health Conditions
Many chronic health conditions are covered under FMLA, allowing affected individuals time to seek treatment and recover. Chronic health conditions typically include conditions that are long-term with episodes of disability or incapacity. In between these episodes, an employee will usually be able to perform his or her job duties. However, an episode may require the employee to take time off to recuperate.
To fit this category, the medical condition must continue for an extended period of time. It must also require periodic medical visits for treatments, meaning at least twice per year. FMLA leave covers a wide range of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, and depression.
Permanent or Long-Term Conditions
Under the FMLA, if you are under the supervision of a health care provider or have been diagnosed with a condition that makes you unable to work for an extended period of time or permanently, you may qualify for leave. Even if there is no treatment for your condition, you may still qualify for time off. Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and most terminal illnesses are covered under the FMLA.
Medical Conditions Requiring Inpatient Care
A medical condition that requires inpatient care will generally qualify for leave under the FMLA. Inpatient care involves an overnight stay at a hospital, residential care facility, hospice, or similar health care facility for one or more nights.
Under the FMLA, an employee is entitled to leave for the time spent receiving inpatient care, as well as for the period following inpatient care in which the person is incapacitated or receiving subsequent treatments in connection with the inpatient care.
To qualify under the FMLA, a person must be incapacitated for more than three days with continuing treatment. This could refer to two treatments that take place within a 30-day period of the initial incapacity, or one treatment that results in a continuing regimen of care.
The first treatment should begin within the first week of incapacity. While medical conditions that require inpatient care can be a broad category, some of the most common conditions include a severe flu, infection, pneumonia, or chicken pox.
Medical Conditions that Require Multiple Treatments
Multiple treatments may be necessary to properly treat certain medical conditions. Under the FMLA, employees are covered for time off if multiple treatments are needed for a condition that would otherwise require an absence of more than three days if not promptly treated. Examples include cancer requiring chemotherapy or kidney disease.
Restorative surgery following an accident or injury may also be covered. Depending on the extent of the damage, restorative surgery will often involve more than one treatment session and will ordinarily require regular post-surgery visits to a physician to ensure proper healing.
Speak with an Employment Law Attorney
The FMLA does not exclusively state which medical conditions are covered as the unique facts of each situation must be considered individually. However, there are some medical conditions that do not generally qualify for leave under the FMLA, such as colds, earaches, headaches, upset stomach, routine dental procedures, minor ulcers, and cosmetic treatments.
If you are struggling with an employment legal issue relating to Family and Medical Leave, an experienced employment attorney can help you navigate the FMLA and provide reliable representation.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.