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The Family Medical Leave Act & Migraine Patients

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted by Congress in 1993. The law is intended to protect workers who experience illness or who have parents or children who become ill and need a caregiver. The protections provided for employees under this law apply to people working for employers who have had 50 or more employees in 20 or more calendar weeks. The major benefits for covered employees are: (1) you are entitled to return to your job or an equivalent position when you return; and (2) your employer is required to maintain your health insurance benefits while you are on leave.

FMLA leave can be an important resource for migraineurs who find their vacation and paid time off dwindling, but still need to protect their jobs despite frequent migraine attacks. Since you can take the leave one day at a time or for a longer period of time, the flexibility is an especially helpful aspect of this law for migraineurs.

As an employee you are eligible for FMLA leave if these criteria are met:

  • You had 12 months of employment within the previous seven years;
  • You worked 1,250 hours during the 12 month period; and
  • You work at a site with 50 employees or where your employer has 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

FMLA applies not only to private employers, but also to local, state and federal public agencies and schools that meet the preceding requirements.

FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for eligible employees for these purposes:

  • The birth or adoption of a child or placement of a child in foster care;
  • You have a “serious health condition” that makes you unable to perform the functions of your position (This is where most people reading this article would fall);
  • You need to care for a parent, spouse or child with a “serious health condition”; or
  • A qualifying exigency relating to military duty.

Other Aspects of the Law:

  • Your employer must maintain your health insurance coverage while you’re on FMLA leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. Your employer is not required to maintain non-health benefits during unpaid leave if employees on other types of unpaid leave do not receive them.
  • Your FMLA leave may run concurrent with your paid time off, but your employer can enforce its standard notice policies for vacation and sick leave even if the reason you’re seeking FMLA leave is unforeseeable. For instance, if your employer requires two weeks notice for vacation leave requests and you find out one day in advance you need to seek leave under FMLA, your employer does not have to let you use your vacation time to receive pay during that period. You may take the leave, but it would be unpaid.
  • Your 12 weeks of leave may be taken consecutively, intermittently or on a part-time basis.
  • Employees must provide 30 days notice if the reason for seeking leave is foreseeable. For unforeseeable reasons employees must give as much notice as “practicable”.
  • Your employer may request doctor certification of your condition and re-certification every 6 months for an ongoing condition.
  • You are generally entitled to return to a position with the same job duties, pay, benefits and terms and conditions as before your FMLA leave.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • DJStolle
    3 years ago

    Do you know any professionals that will help me file for Social Security Disability due to Migraines? I have lost my job and I am having a difficult time finding another position due to my “unexcused absence” due to my Migraines.

  • stargal81
    5 years ago

    where can I go for the form for my MD to fill out for the “intermittent leave”? I’ve spent hours online searching,,,, all have the regular forms(like if you’re going out for surgery or maternity) but no form with the intermittent clause included. my MD has no idea where to get it, told me to do all the research myself. all the searching online alone gives me migraines, and am very frustrated & discouraged. don’t want to contact my Human Resources dept. because I get attitude for asking the simplest question, and they aren’t quick to get back to me. I doubt they’re going to just happen to have the exact blank form I need on file (plus I want my MD to fill it out before my employer gets their hands on it). thanks, -L

  • Wendy Lee Hilliker
    8 years ago

    I have used this in the past (when I still had a job). Intermittent leave may be taken in as small an increment as one hour – not just one day. This would allow you to leave early if a migraine begins while you are working. Also, while you will need to get the doctor certification as part of the process, when you actually take the leave (be it one hour, one day, etc.), you are not required to see a physician every time you take the leave – in other words, if you develop a migraine while at work and go home to take meds and sleep, you would be covered. I have had an employer that thought you had to have a doctor’s note everytime you were gone – this is not so. Please review the code (found from the Dept of Labor website) – it is fairly easy to understand for most non-legal people. I think that FMLA is underutilized by migraineurs that are trying to stay in a job. Remember, this covers not only the migraineur, but family support as well (taking your child or spouse or other relative). One note – check with your state policy as well – this may be more beneficial (but can never be less) than the FMLA federal policy.

  • Deborah Yoder Jones
    8 years ago

    My employer offered this to me which led to long term disability.

  • Newdancerco
    6 years ago

    How did you qualify for LTD insurance? I’ve been told I will never qualify because I am too likely to need it (in regards to my depression, but the logic would seem to hold).

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