Routine medical care doesn’t trigger FMLA — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Routine medical care doesn’t trigger FMLA

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The FMLA is supposed to protect employees from losing their jobs when they can’t work due to a serious health condition. Minor maladies such as colds, headaches and body aches usually aren’t enough to merit protected leave. That’s true even if the employee goes to a doctor and gets a prescription, unless the health care provider also tells the worker to return within 30 days for a follow up or otherwise actively monitors the illness.

Recent case: Kendrick told his supervisor that he had a terrible headache, blurred vision, back and neck pain and generally didn’t feel well. He left work and went to a clinic for a checkup. There, a doctor told him his blood pressure was high and prescribed blood pressure medication. The doctor told him to follow up at some point in the future with his family doctor, but didn’t specify when to do so. More than 30 days later, Kendrick did go to his family doctor, who said his blood pressure was normal. He was advised to get more exercise. The prescription wasn’t renewed.

Before that second visit, however, Kendrick was fired for missing work. He sued, alleging his time off should have been covered by the FMLA and therefore should not have counted against him.

The court disagreed. It noted that FMLA regulations define a serious health condition as a condition that requires two or more doctor visits within 30 days, or one visit plus a regimen of supervised prescription treatment. Kendrick wasn’t told to have a second visit within 30 days, nor did the clinic doctor tell him to report any problems or return for a consultation within a specific time frame. The case was dismissed. (Johnson v. Wheeling Machine Products, et al., No. 13-3786, 8th Cir., 2015)

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