Any pregnancy problem is a serious condition under FMLA

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When it comes to a pregnancy, employers may want to follow the safest path: Approve any absences that are even remotely related to the pregnancy as FMLA-covered time off.

The U.S. Labor Department’s FMLA regulations specify that any period of incapacity due to a pregnancy is a serious health condition and qualifies the employee for FMLA intermittent leave if she’s otherwise qualified (i.e., she’s worked 1,250 hours in the last year; has worked for the company a total of at least one year; and the company has 50 or more employees).

Recent case: Cindy Hiemer said her chronic lung problem was exacerbated by her pregnancy. She asked her employer, Anthem Insurance, for FMLA leave. After she was fired for failing to call in sick, she sued the company, alleging interference with her right to FMLA leave. But Anthem Insurance said her absence wasn’t a serious health condition—Hiemer had testified she couldn’t come to work because she was nauseous and lightheaded. The company said FMLA didn’t cover that sort of problem.

The court disagreed, concluding that—since FMLA regulations say anything related to pregnancy automatically qualifies as a serious health condition—nausea and lightheadedness might be enough.

The case now goes to trial, and Hiemer will get a chance to convince a jury her absence was pregnancy-related. (Hiemer v. Anthem Insurance Companies, No. C-1-05-124, SD OH, 2007)  

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