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Does FMLA Cover Mental Health?

Fear of job loss is one of many reasons why people who have mental health concerns don’t seek the treatment that can significantly improve their lives. On Feb. 5, 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. Though this law has been in effect for nearly 30 years, many people do not know the answer to the question, “Does FMLA cover mental health?”

What is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that grants eligible employees the ability to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for reasons such as the following:

  • Birth of a child or caring for a newborn child up to age 1
  • Arrival of a child via adoption or foster care, including caring for the child within one year of their placement
  • Caring for a parent, spouse, or child who has a serious health condition
  • Developing a serious health condition that prevents a person from performing essential job functions
  • Approved circumstances related to a spouse’s, child’s, or parent’s military service

If an employee is the spouse, parent, child, or next of kin of a military member who needs care for a serious illness or injury, they may be eligible for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.

When an eligible employee takes approved leave in accordance with the FMLA, their employer must continue their group health insurance coverage. They must also ensure that when the employee returns from their unpaid leave, they are either placed in the same job they had before their leave or given an equivalent position.

Who is Covered by FMLA?

The FMLA applies to all public agencies on the local, state, and national level. This includes schools. Private employers must adhere to the regulations established in the FMLA if they have employed more than 50 people for at least 20 weeks during the current or previous year. To be eligible for FMLA-guaranteed leave, employees must meet the following criteria:

  • Work for an employer that falls under the FMLA’s authority.
  • Work in a location where the employer has more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • Have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 months. These months do not need to have been consecutive, but they do need to have occurred within the past seven years.
  • Have completed a minimum of 1,250 hours of work for the employer during the 12 months that precede the leave request.

Does FMLA Cover Mental Health in Nashville, TN?

As established in the first section of this post, FMLA allows employees to take leave if they have developed a serious health condition that prevents them from doing their job, or if they need to care for a close family member who has a serious health condition. Thus, the answer to the question “does FMLA cover mental health?” is found in the law’s definition of “serious health condition.” 

According to information on the FMLA website, “[a] chronic condition whether physical or mental (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, dissociative disorders) that may cause occasional periods when an individual is unable to work,” qualifies as a serious health condition if it meets the following two criteria:

  • The chronic condition requires treatment by a healthcare provider at least two times per year.
  • The chronic condition recurs over an extended period of time.

So, yes, the FMLA does cover mental health in certain circumstances. In addition to cases that require hospitalization, FMLA permits unpaid leave for mental health therapy and counseling sessions if the mental health disorder for which you are receiving treatment is severe enough to prevent you from performing duties that are essential to your job. 

FMLA also covers mental health treatment as it pertains to the close family members of eligible employees. This means that if you work for an employer that falls under the authority of the FMLA, you may take unpaid leave if you need to care for a child, spouse, or parent has developed a mental health condition.

You do not need to be the sole caregiver of your parent, spouse, or child to qualify for FMLA-authorized unpaid leave. For example, if you need to be away from work to help keep your loved one safe, accompany them to treatment sessions, assist them with basic needs, or relieve the people who normally provide these services, the FMLA allows you to take unpaid leave. 

Do Other Federal Laws Address Employee Mental Health?

The FMLA is not the only federal legislation that offers protection to employees who have mental health disorders. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of many laws that prevent workplace discrimination. 

Under the ADA, which was signed into law in 1990 by then-President George H. W. Bush, employers may be required to provide a variety of accommodations due to an employee’s mental health needs. This may include allowing flexible use of vacation hours, leaves of absence to receive treatment, and unpaid time off to attend therapy sessions. 

While the ADA is much broader in scope in terms of mandating accommodations and preventing discrimination, it is focused on the physical and mental health needs of the individual employee. The FMLA, on the other hand, covers situations involving both the employee’s direct needs and responsibilities for caring for close family members.

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If you or someone that you care about have been living with a mental health disorder, Arbor Wellness Center is here for you. Our team provides personalized care in a safe environment for adults whose lives have been impacted by anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, other mental health concerns, and co-occurring addiction. Give us a call or visit our admissions page today to learn how we can help.