How the Family and Medical Leave Act Can Help You Out

October 9, 2009 at 2:56 am | Posted in Work Life | Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking of family and medical leave because, um, I’ve been taking it for the last two days. Many people know that, in the United States, FMLA allows workers at an employer with 50 or more employees to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave to deal with their own physical or mental illness or that of a family member. That last is defined pretty narrowly — cousins, aunts and uncles, and domestic partners are not included under Federal law, for example, though many states have more generous provisions.

What you may not know is that you can take FMLA on an intermittent basis to deal with your own serious, chronic illness. According to the woman who administers the program for my employer, the most common use is for people who suffer from incapacitating migraines. It’s available for mental illnesses, however, and that’s how I’m using it. The process for getting qualified was fairly simple: my psychiatrist and I filled out some straightforward forms; my request was reviewed, and pretty promptly granted.

The beauty of intermittent FMLA is that it helps out those of use who, through medication problems or just occasional nuttiness, need to stay home on days when we simply can’t deal. You can even use it to attend medical appointments as long as you coordinate with your supervisor in advance. What’s more, employers can’t discriminate against you for using it; if you must have FMLA and the nature of your current job simply won’t allow it, then your employer must find you another job with a equivalent pay within the organization.

There are two serious downsides: First, it’s unpaid, so too much of it can eat into your paycheck pretty seriously; second, an employer may require your to use all of your accrued sick leave and/or vacation leave before you can switch to FMLA. This can put you in a position where you can’t get time off for a bad case of the flu, should it strike. All told, though, intermittent FMLA offers a good option for those of us who work, but still have days so rotten that we can’t go in.

The U.S Department of Labor and good old Wikipedia both supply useful, specific information; the latter includes a brief guide to which states have more generous provisions than Federal law requires.

Love to all, and I hope this helps.

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