What Qualifies As An FMLA Serious Health Condition?
Allen Employment Law Attorney Explains Medical Leave Guidelines
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law, eligible employees are entitled to unpaid leave for reasons such as pregnancy, adoption or the serious illness either of the worker or the worker’s family member. Of these, a qualifying FMLA serious health condition is perhaps the most difficult to define. The law itself provides certain guidelines, but these are vague and open to interpretation. As a result, your employer may attempt to deny you rightful leave for your own illness or a family member’s condition. If so, then you may have grounds for an employment lawsuit against your company or employer.
Both federal and Texas state laws grant certain rights to workers, including the right to unpaid medical leave. However, many employees may be unaware of their rights or may have questions about FMLA guidelines and eligibility. If you need information about your right to medical leave in Texas, Allen employment law attorneyDan A. Atkerson may be able to help.
What is a Serious Condition Under FMLA Guidelines?
According to the FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for treatment of a serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. A qualifying FMLA serious health condition must fall into one of these six categories:
- Inpatient care. If your condition requires overnight medical attention in a hospital or other medical facility, you qualify for FMLA leave. This covers your stay in the facility and subsequent treatment related to that inpatient care.
- Three days’ incapacitation plus continuing treatment. Any illness or injury that keeps you from work for over three days and also requires ongoing treatment counts as an FMLA serious health condition. Ongoing treatment can take many forms, so it is best to consult with an employment law attorney about your specific case.
- Pregnancy. The FMLA clearly defines pregnancy as a qualifying medical condition. Additionally, you may take leave before you give birth for pre-natal care.
- Chronic serious health conditions. Certain medical conditions may require occasional treatment or may have sporadic symptoms. In these cases, you may qualify for intermittent FMLA leave. For instance, diabetes and asthma are serious health conditions. However, symptoms are irregular, so an employee may take intermittent leave when symptoms recur.
- Permanent incapacity. Some conditions may be long-term or permanent, and may or may not be treatable. Terminal cancer or Alzheimer’s disease are examples of qualifying conditions of permanent incapacity. Typically, an employee will take FMLA leave to care for a family member with this kind of condition.
- Multiple treatments. If a condition requires many treatments, then it likely qualifies you for medical leave or intermittent FMLA leave. For example, an employee may need multiple surgeries to correct an injury. Or, an employee may require dialysis treatments or chemotherapy.
What if a Family Member Has a Serious Medical Condition?
In certain circumstances, you may take FMLA medical leave for a serious health condition even if you do not have that condition yourself. If your family member is ill or seriously injured, then you can use your FMLA leave to care for him or her. However, this applies to only a few close relatives. These are:
- A parent. This includes biological and adoptive parents as well as foster and stepparents. Other individuals may also qualify, if you received substantial parental care from another person when you were a minor. For instance, the child of a same-sex partnership may take leave to care for the non-biological or non-adoptive parent.
- A spouse. This applies to any legal spouse as defined by the state where you married. It includes same-sex spouses and partners with a common-law marriage.
- A child. A son or daughter may be a biological, step, adopted or foster child. It can also be a child to whom you provide parental care.
Typically, you may only take FMLA in these circumstances to care for a relative. This means providing actual assistance or supervision of daily care because your loved one is “incapable of self-care”. For example, you usually cannot take leave to visit an ill relative or manage a loved one’s affairs after he or she dies. However, you can take leave to transport a loved one to and from necessary medical appointments, even if he or she is otherwise capable of self-care.
Denied FMLA Leave? Contact a Texas Employment Law Attorney Today
Determining whether your medical condition qualifies you for FMLA leave can be difficult, especially if your employer tells you it does not. During your initial consultation with Allen employment law attorney Dan A. Atkerson, you can learn your rights according to FMLA guidelines. If you were denied rightful medical leave, then Dan can assist you in filing an employment claim to recover compensation and/or ensure you get the leave you need.
Contact our Texas employment law firm online or call (214) 383-3606 today to schedule your case review. We proudly represent clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, including residents of Frisco, McKinney, Irving, Richardson and Plano.