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When does a serious health condition qualify for FMLA leave?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) |

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects someone’s employment if they need to take time away from their job under specific circumstances. Under the FMLA, employees in certain qualifying situations can ask for an unpaid leave of absence from work. The average employee could qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, although those seeking leave for the benefit of a loved one can sometimes qualify for 26 weeks of leave if their family member is an active-duty military servicemember.

Some people use the FMLA to take leave after having a baby. Many others request leave under the FMLA when they have a “serious medical condition,” as defined under the FMLA. How can someone determine whether their health issues meet the standards necessary for leave under the FMLA?

A serious medical condition affects work and daily life

FMLA leave is not only available to those with terminal illnesses or permanent disabilities. It can help anyone with a medical condition significant enough to affect their ability to live independently or their ability to work.

If someone requires hospitalization or ongoing medical treatment, their condition may meet the necessary standard for leave under the FMLA. A broken bone, for example, might not put someone in the hospital. However, they require the supervision of a physician until they fully recover.

If they cannot work and require ongoing support from healthcare professionals, then their condition may be serious enough to to qualify unpaid FMLA leave. Recovering from surgery, healing from a serious illness or undergoing treatment for a major injury are all examples of health conditions that could qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA.

Proper documentation is crucial

Workers seeking on-the-job accommodations based on federal employment statutes need proper documentation for their protection. Obtaining diagnostic paperwork from a physician and documentation regarding functional limitations or treatment requirements can make it easier for someone to prove to an employer that they have a health issue serious enough to warrant an unpaid leave request.

Workers may also want to keep accurate records of their communications with management or human resources so that they can prove they followed the right procedures when seeking unpaid FMLA leave.

Understanding the systems in place for employee protection can help workers preserve their jobs while dealing with medical challenges. Workers who learn more about the FMLA and other employment laws may have an easier time using the systems in place for their benefit.