The specific language in a Family Medical Leave Act notice is critical. Employees are likely rely on such information so that they can make informed decisions about when and how much unpaid leave they can take. Similarly, the communication and recording of such leave is critical to prevent unlawful punishments against employees who need to take intermittent leave under FMLA.
It is important for injured workers to know that federal law allows qualified employees to take leave on an intermittent (i.e. temporary, irregular interval) basis or to work a reduced schedule to help deal with injuries that prevent them from working. For example, if a factory worker seeks such leave to undergo physical therapy for lower back pain. He or she should be able to be approved for FMLA leave after following the protocols set forth in the employer's FMLA leave notice.
In essence, a worker following a prudent course of action should not be disciplined or otherwise terminated because of missed days of work due to a valid FMLA reason. However, the reality is that countless employees are afraid of losing their jobs even though they cannot really function because of injury.
Knowledge of one's FMLA rights is especially important for workers who have soft tissue injuries or mental health issues that they are working through. Unlike injuries where there is objective proof of an ailment (i.e. a broken arm, sprained ankles or even broken ribs) soft tissue injuries will not show up on x-rays and carry a stigma that an injured worker may be feigning injury to get out of work.
The same could be said about workers battling mental health issues. Some employers may simply expect for a worker to obtain prescription medication and immediately return to work. But medication alone is not always the answer. These issues are often best managed by medication and therapy over a period of time. Suffice it to say, FMLA leave may be needed to help a worker dealing with these issues adjust to a new reality.
If you have questions about your right to FMLA leave, an experienced employment law attorney can help.