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Serious health conditions and FMLA

Although some health issues can resolve rather quickly, others can result in long-term medical treatment and recovery times for patients. A California employer may have questions about discerning between serious health conditions and less serious situations as an employee requests FMLA leave. When conditions provided for in the law are met, an employee may take advantage of job-protected time away.

Employees may take FMLA time related to their care or that of a loved one in a hospital or in another residential health care facility. Outpatient medical issues could qualify an employee for FMLA time if the period of time involves at least three consecutive days. However, such a situation must involve at least two visits to a health care professional within a 30-day period with the first of these visits taking place within the first seven days of the condition being an issue. Alternately, such a scenario could involve a continuing regimen for treatment as long as the first medical visit has been made within the first seven days of the illness or condition.

Chronic conditions requiring at least two medical visits per year with a need for consistent treatment could be eligible for FMLA leave. Examples may include diabetes, epilepsy and breathing disorders such as asthma. Non-chronic issues could also be valid under FMLA if multiple treatments are needed. Examples may include surgeries following a serious injury or treatment for cancer. Conditions such as a terminal disease or Alzheimer's that may not need frequent intervention but do require consistent care and supervision may also be valid. Pregnancy-related care and periods of incapacity are also valid.

As employee rights are exercised in connection with FMLA, there can be times at which questions about the validity of a request arise. It may be helpful to provide documentation of doctor visits or work excuses to support the use of these leave rights if an employer requests such proof.

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