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FMLA Mental Health Advice

The Department of Labor issued new guidelines explaining to employers when the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to mental health conditions. The changes were announced by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

The division points out that the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly one in five U.S. adults – or about 52.9 million people in 2020 – live with a mental illness, and that only about half receive the help needed.

“While many people coping with mental illness may face barriers to treatment including social stigmas, a lack of available services or financial resources, the DOL is determined to ensure that obtaining job-protected leave under the FMLA is not another obstacle to overcome when workers seek the mental health support they need,” the division said.

“Mental and physical health conditions are considered serious health conditions under the FMLA if they require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider, such as an overnight stay in a treatment center for addiction or continuing treatment by a clinical psychologist.”

This can include inpatient care for a mental health condition, which might be something like time spent in a residential care facility for treatment of an eating disorder or substance abuse, according to attorneys Susan Gross Sholinsky and Tiffany Sarchet of the law firm of Epstein Becker & Green.

Also qualifying as serious under the FMLA are events that incapacitate an individual for more than three days and require ongoing medical treatment, as well as chronic conditions, such as anxiety, depression or dissociative disorders

The employee also may take FMLA leave to care for a spouse, child or parent in these situations.

The guidance includes Fact Sheet # 28O: Mental Health Conditions and the FMLA and Frequently Asked Questions on the FMLA’s mental health provisions.

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