The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was designed to provide leave time to employees who are physically ill, taking care of a sick family member or caring for a newborn or adopted child. In Rhode Island, the guidelines for covering mentally ill employees has not always been clear. The Department of Labor (DOL) has stepped in to provide updated guidelines on how to apply the FMLA to mental health situations.
Options for employees
Paid or unpaid absence leaves are provided to employees who suffer from serious mental health conditions. They also qualify if they have to leave work to care for a mentally ill spouse, child or family member. The illness is classified as serious by meeting one or two conditions: requiring hospitalized care or continuing treatment.
Types of violations
An example is an employee who suffers from a mental health condition, such as stress or substance abuse, that requires care in a hospital or treatment center. The employee is eligible to receive 12 or fewer weeks of leave if he or she is unable to perform the job duties. An employer may commit one or more FMLA violations by refusing to grant FMLA leave for an eligible employee, reducing an employee’s work hours or duties or shortening the length of a granted leave.
The DOL has created a detailed guide for all employers on how to administer the FMLA program. The FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of absent leave for sick employees. A worker receives time off only by suffering from a serious medical condition. The employer must acknowledge the employee’s position and duties to the company and act as if the employee did not take leave at all.