Family Medical Leave Act & Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2011.

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.

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