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Defining “Serious Health Conditions” For FMLA Purposes

Employers in South Carolina are required by law to follow the guidelines of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when dealing with their employees. However, sometimes miscommunications happen not out of employer ignorance, but because of misunderstanding the terms of the Act. Someone applying for leave under FMLA must have a “serious health condition” or be taking care of a family member with a serious health condition. But, too often, the meaning of this term is up for debate. So, below, we’re defining “serious health conditions” for FMLA purposes so that you have a full understanding of the Act.

Definition and Debate

The Act itself defines a “serious health condition” as an “illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition” that requires inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. In itself, “continuing treatment” is a term whose meaning is also open to debate. There are several different types of conditions that come up when trying to determine what qualifies as “continuing,” and it is easy to become confused.

For example, pregnancy and doctor visits to treat conditions related to pregnancy have been historically classified as worthy of FMLA leave—but pregnancy is not necessarily going to require “continuing treatment” by a healthcare provider if things go well. There are exceptions to every rule. Other conditions that might fall under the umbrella of a “serious health condition” include permanent or long-term physical incapacity, which might not necessarily need either continuing treatment or a doctor’s care.

If You Are Denied

If your employer decides that you do not have a serious health condition, or otherwise interferes with your ability to file for FMLA leave, you may be able to seek redress with the Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor. However, it is always a good idea to have a meeting with your employer on the subject first. Employers have to, by law, grant your request for FMLA leave as long as you meet the requirements to take it—it may be that your employer is confused or has made a genuine error.

If your employer is deliberately choosing to deny your FMLA request even though you meet all the requirements, it is important to be aware that this is illegal, not just a problem. Consulting an experienced employment law attorney can sometimes get an employer to change their direction. Even if they do not, an attorney can offer you advice and suggestions as to where to go from here.

Contact An Employment Discrimination Attorney

Defining “serious health conditions” for FMLA purposes is imperative for understanding the Act. FMLA can be a lifesaver when someone is having a rough time, and if you meet the requirements to take FMLA leave, you should be allowed to do so. If you have questions or concerns about your FMLA claim, calling a South Carolina employment discrimination lawyer is a good place to start. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience with these types of cases and will work hard to improve your chances of a good outcome in yours. Contact us to speak to an attorney today.

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