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Reasons That Qualify For FMLA Leave

Reasons That Qualify for FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") entitles employees to take time off from work for a total of up to 12 weeks due to family or medical emergencies, but only for specified reasons. Not every reason qualifies for FMLA protection while on time off. Generally, the types of events that trigger FMLA protection include:

  • The arrival of a new child in the family -- whether by birth, adoption, or foster care;
  • The care of a family member with a serious health condition; or
  • The employee's own serious health condition prevents the employee from performing essential job duties.

As defined under FMLA, a "serious health condition" means any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Additionally, in specifying what qualifies for FMLA-related leave, the regulations include only an employee's spouse, child, or parent as family members.

Below is a discussion of the reasons that qualify for FMLA leave under current FMLA regulations.

Parental Leave after the Birth of a Child

The birth of a child qualifies for FMLA leave, and a mother may use FMLA time off for prenatal care or continuing care once the child is born. A father may also use FMLA leave to care for a newborn child, or to provide care for a spouse incapacitated as a result of the pregnancy or childbirth.

Parental leave does not have to be taken all at once. Upon an employer's approval, parents may choose to spread their 12-week leave out over the course of a year by taking a few weeks at a time or by reducing their normal work hours in a given week (known as "intermittent parental leave"). However, when both parents are employed by the same company, only one parent may qualify for pregnancy- or childbirth-related leave.

Pregnancy Leave

Sometimes the pregnancy itself may qualify for FMLA leave as a serious health condition, especially when a doctor places the employee on bed rest during the pregnancy. Employees who request pregnancy-related leave may be required to substantiate the pregnancy-related complication through medical certification.

Adoption or Foster Care

The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care is a qualifying reason for leave under the FMLA. Employees may take up to a 12-week leave within one year of placement.

Adoption leave may also occur before the actual placement of the child if an employee must be absent from work before the placement to attend counseling sessions, appear in court, or travel to another country to complete the adoption.

Medical Leave to Care for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition

Employees may request leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Under current FMLA regulations, only spouses, children, or parents are considered family members. An employee's in-laws or grandparents, for example, are not included.

Moreover, for purposes of FMLA leave, ordinary illnesses such as a common cold, flu, earache, stomachache, or headache do not qualify for FMLA leave -- though some common illnesses that a doctor deems serious may qualify for FMLA leave under certain circumstances.

Medical Leave for Your Own Serious Health Condition

An employee's own health condition may also qualify for FMLA leave. For example, employees who are unable to perform their essential job duties because of a serious illness or chronic health condition may request leave to treat the condition or receive prolonged care under a doctor's supervision.

FMLA regulations require a "period of incapacity" of more than three consecutive calendar days. If an employee's condition requires two or more visits to a healthcare provider for the same condition, those visits must occur within 30 days of the first day the employee became incapacitated.

Finally, under FMLA regulations, the treatment of a chronic health condition must occur at least twice in any calendar year, and an employee may be required to show medical certification of his or her illness.

Military Family Member Leave

Military families may use FMLA to provide leave for members with serious health conditions or for caring for family members with serious health conditions.

Once you have determined that you qualify for FMLA based on any of the above-listed reasons, you must also have general FMLA eligibility before leave is actually approved. This may include having worked for your employer for at least 12 months and submitting FMLA notice requirements.

Get a Legal Evaluation of Your Family and Medical Leave Issues

If you are interested in receiving FMLA leave, you should first determine if your employer is covered by FMLA. If they are, you should then determine if you are covered by FMLA by virtue of your tenure and hours. Then, you will need to determine whether your reason for absence is covered. After ensuring your eligibility, you should then provide the necessary notice to your employer.

If your employer denied your rightful leave for medical- or family-related matters, you may want to meet with an employment law attorney. Get some peace of mind with a legal evaluation of your particular situation today.

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