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In May 2022, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor released Fact Sheet #280 related to mental health conditions and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
As background, among the qualifying reasons that a person may qualify for FMLA leave are:
• To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition; and
• Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position.
A serious health condition is defined as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves
(1) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility or
(2) continuing treatment by a health care provider.
The fact sheet clarifies that a serious mental health condition that requires inpatient care includes an overnight stay in a hospital or other medical care facility, such as, for example, a treatment center for addiction or eating disorders.
In addition, the fact sheet notes that a serious mental health condition that requires continuing treatment by a health care provider includes:
• Conditions that incapacitate an individual for more than three consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment by a health care provider, including a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or clinical social worker; and
• Chronic conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, or dissociative disorders) that cause occasional periods when an individual is incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year.
In the fact sheet, examples are provided outlining situations that can trigger FMLA (or military caregiver leave):
• An adult child (unable to care for him/herself) with a serious mental health condition
• A military family member’s serious mental health condition
Employers should ensure that they comply with applicable state and federal laws, including FMLA. Additionally, employers should make sure they appropriately determine whether a particular mental health condition of an employee or dependent rises to the level of a serious health condition warranting FMLA.