People who are diagnosed with anxiety disorders may undergo significant stress and other symptoms at certain times. If you are working, your anxiety disorder might interfere with your job until you can get help to effectively manage your symptoms. Fortunately, you might be eligible to take leave from your job under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The intensity of your symptoms might impact your ability to perform your normal work duties. If you experience intense symptoms of anxiety, taking a temporary leave of absence from your job might be important. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand your rights to take leave from your job under the FMLA.
What is the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that was passed in 1993. This law offers benefits to workers who need to take time off from work for their serious medical conditions or to care for the serious health conditions of their family members. Under this law, covered employers must allow their eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks off from work in a year. While the leave is unpaid, the FMLA helps to protect the rights of workers. The FMLA allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for the following reasons:
- The birth of a new child
- Caring for a newborn infant
- Bonding with a newly placed foster or adopted child
- Caring for an immediate family member’s serious health condition
- Caring for the employee’s serious medical condition
Serious health or medical conditions are defined under the FMLA to include mental or physical conditions that require continuing treatment, inpatient care, and incapacity for three or more days. Eligible employees who are seriously ill to who have seriously ill family members may take intermittent leave or choose to work a reduced schedule instead of taking an entire block of 12 weeks off from work.
If you choose to take FMLA leave by working a reduced schedule, you might take intermittent leaves of absence because of the unpredictable course of your symptoms or reduce the hours that you work each day or week. If you take intermittent FMLA leave, it is still bound to fall within a maximum of 12 weeks in 12 months.
Which employers are covered by the FMLA?
The FMLA does not cover all employers. Instead, it only covers employers that have a minimum of 50 workers working within 75 miles of one another. The FMLA covers the following employers:
- Private companies with 50 or more workers
- Local, state, and federal employers
- Private and public K-12 schools
Which employees are eligible?
To be eligible to take FMLA leave, you must work for a covered employer. The eligibility requirements also include the following:
- Have worked for a covered employer for at least the previous 12 months
- Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months
- Work at a company’s location where at least 50 employees work or within 75 miles of the company’s other location for a total of 50 employees
Benefits while taking FMLA leave
The FMLA requires employers to maintain their employees’ medical benefits while they take FMLA leaves of absence. If you take a leave of absence for anxiety disorder, your employer must maintain your coverage. However, you will be required to continue paying your share of the costs of your benefits.
When you return from taking a leave of absence under the FMLA, your employer must either restore you to your former position or give you an equivalent job. An equivalent position must be similar in terms of compensation, benefits, and job duties.
If you are a key employee at your company, your employer might not have to return you to your position. A key employee is someone who occupies a crucial position within a company. If holding your position open during your FMLA leave of absence would cause your employer to suffer a substantial economic injury, your employer may be allowed to fill your position without violating the FMLA.
How is an FMLA leave of absence approved?
Under the FMLA, you are required to give your employer 30 days of notice when your need to take leave is reasonably foreseeable. However, if an emergency arises, you must provide notice of your need to take a leave of notice as soon as reasonably possible. Your employer may require you to provide it with a medical certification from your doctor before your leave request is granted. While you can be asked to provide a medical certification of your need to take a leave of absence, you do not have to give your employer your medical records. If your leave request is approved, your employer can require you to use up the paid time off that you have accrued before you start the unpaid leave.
In general, the human resources departments of companies handle the FMLA leave requests of employees. The information that you provide to your employer must be held in confidence and should only be accessible to those who are responsible for determining whether to approve or deny your leave request. Your immediate supervisor should generally not be granted access to the medical information that your doctor has provided to your employer in support of your request for FMLA leave.
What happens if an employer violates the FMLA?
If you are eligible for FMLA leave and are denied by your employer, you may have legal rights. Similarly, if your employer discriminates against you, disciplines you, or terminates you because you took a leave of absence under the FMLA, you may have legal rights. When an employer is alleged to have violated the FMLA, the claim will be investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The division will contact your employer to try to resolve the issues, but it can also file a court action against your employer for violating the FMLA.
You also have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer if it has violated your rights under the FMLA. If you think that your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA, contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler by calling us at 856.685.7420.