How to Request FMLA Medical Leave

requesting FMLA medical leave the right wayThere are a few tips that are important to follow when submitting a request for FMLA medical leave or disability leave to your employer in California to make sure that you do everything right on your part to ensure that you are able to return to work after your leave is over:

1. Provide advanced notice of your medical leave if possible.

It’s not always possible to know in advance that you will need medical leave, and obviously many medical issues occur quickly and unexpectedly. However, if you know for sure that you will need time off sometime in the future, then give your employer sufficient notice. Typically this happens in cases of serious surgeries that involve a recovery period that may last for a few months or even longer. As soon as you find out that you are scheduled for surgery in a few week or a month, let your employer know. The more time they have to arrange for your absence, the less negative effect your absence will have on them and the less likely they are to be unhappy about your absence. Even though retaliating against employees for taking medical leave or disability leave is illegal, it happens frequently. You are far less likely to experience that kind of retaliation of the employer has time to hire some one during the time you are absent or he is able to distribute your duties temporarily among your co-worker, than if you suddenly tell your boss that in two days you will be off work for the next several months.

2. If you need other disability accommodations, provide your employer with the necessary information about your condition.

One of the most common mistakes that both employee and employers make when it comes to disability and medical leave issues is misunderstanding the medical confidentiality limitations. Many employers and workers don’t realize that an employer is entitled to know certain information about an employee’s medical condition and limitations, that’s necessary and consistent with the request for accommodation. And unless it’s something extremely embarrassing, it is in employee’s best interest to provide the employer with that information anyway. Additional details about an employee’s medical condition that requires medical leave would help the employer evaluate and grant the request for accommodations, or work with the employee on finding other effective solutions to their work limitations.

Suppose you have a desk job that involves a lot of typing. After being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you go out on medical leave to have a surgery and post-surgery recovery. Then, you are released to return to work with the limitation of not typing more than 4 hours a day and to take a 15 minute break from typing every hour. It’s only fair that your employer knows why you have these limitations. And while you don’t have to provide your management with your entire medical file, if your request for accommodation does not seem to be clear enough to the employer and they ask you for further clarification, such as obtaining a new, more detailed medical note about your limitations from your doctor, you should definitely cooperate and give them everything they need in order to accommodate you.

3. Communicate your request for FMLA medical leave or disability leave in writing.

All too often the employers say that they never received your medical leave request, especially after you sue them for any type of FMLA or disability discrimination violation. E-mail and fax your request for medical leave and all the other requested information, such as disability and FMLA certification form to your HR, to your manger and anyone else involved and keep record of those transmissions. This way, the employer can never argue that they didn’t know you needed medical leave or they didn’t know the reasons for your leave.

4. Remember that more than one law provides for medical leave entitlement.   

Many employers and employees don’t realize this very important legal point about medical leave laws: just because an employee’s sick leave or FMLA leave has been exhausted or just because an employee is not eligible for FMLA leaves, doesn’t mean that he is not entitled to a disability leave. If the underlying medical condition qualifies as a disability under FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act), the disabled employee can be entitled to medical leave or an extension of previously granted and exhausted medical leave as “reasonable accommodation” to his disability.

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