What qualifies as a serious health condition under the FMLA?

As this blog has reported previously, a worker in Rhode Island has the right, under federal law, to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, provided he or she satisfies certain conditions.

A Rhode Island worker has the right, for instance, to claim the unpaid leave when he or she has a serious medical condition or has to take care of certain close relatives who have serious health conditions.

On the one hand, a serious health condition does not include things like a stomach bug or a common cold. These are what sick time is for, provided of course that an employer offers such a benefit.

On the other hand, one need be in the hospital or on the brink of dying before he or she has a serious health condition that qualifies for FMLA leave. In fact, one need not even meet the definition of having a legal "disability" because of an illness or injury.

All a worker need show is that either he or she or a qualifying relative have some condition that requires ongoing medical supervision and care. The condition has to last for more than three days, and, although a worker must be afforded some time to do this, an employer can ask for medical documentation providing the illness or injury is legitimate.

Although not every ache and pain will qualify, workers in Rhode Island should remember that they have the option of using FMLA to protect their jobs in the event of just about any significant illness. If an employer does not honor this important right, a worker may be able to get compensation and other legal relief.

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