“I need to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Where do I start?”

Question: I have four sons, two of whom have been diagnosed with Epilepsy. One is Autistic. I work full-time at their elementary school in the Special Education department.

The stress of having multiple children with special needs is slowly beginning to wear me down physically and emotionally. I spend a lot of time at doctors’ appointments, and taking days off for these appointments, and to take care of my children.

I want to ask for a leave of absence under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), but I’m not sure where to begin. I wonder if my employers will understand, or how they will treat me after, when I return to work. What are my rights? How do I begin the process? What information will they require of me? Help!

Exhausted Mother         
Bullhead City, Arizona

Answer: Before I offer legal information, I would like to express to you my admiration for your being so dedicated and loving a mom as you obviously are. Your love, care and devotion are so very much “what life is about, or should be,” words cannot express it.

First, as to information that can help you: I suggest you review a Newsletter article in our “Newsletter/Q & A Library” entitled: “Special Issue: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – 50 Things You May Need to Know.” It has pretty much every thing you seek, including information on eligibility, application, certification, and even possible retaliation. You really ought to read it. To read this article [click here].

Second, I also suggest you consider obtaining our Model Letter Job Issues 10: “Model Memo Asking for FMLA Information.” It is a model of a memo you should send to Human Resources to get the process started. To obtain this model memo simply [click here].

Third, these days most employers are very familiar with FMLA, and how it operates. It is a great law, and is being used more and more by people in your situation, that is, with loved ones who need their time and attention. While I can’t predict how you may be treated when you return from a FMLA leave of absence, it is unusual in my experience to see employees treated negatively afterwards, for two reasons: it is against the law to retaliate against someone for exercising their FMLA rights, and because it is, slowly but surely, becoming a regular part of working life to have colleagues take time off to care for their loved ones.

You may be a candidate for what is called “intermittent leave” under FMLA, which means that, instead of taking off 12 weeks in a row (totaling 60 days off), you might take off two days per week for 30 weeks (which also totals 60 days off.)

So get going: Our Special FMLA Issue: “The 50 Things You May Need to Know about FMLA” should really be your next stop. I hope this is helpful, and tonight I will pray for you and your boys.       

Best, Al Sklover  

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.