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Understanding How FMLA Can Help

Last updated: April 2022

Living with MS means a lifetime of unpredictability. You may feel perfectly fine when you go to bed, but sometime during the night, a significant front moves through the neighborhood wreaking havoc on your body. Suddenly, getting out of bed to go into work would require the assistance of a powerhouse Olympic team, only they didn’t happen show up at your door to lend a hand this morning. Therefore, not only can you not go into the office, but neither can your caregiver who has to stand-in for the Olympic team and help out.

Co-worker comments

Feeling like you’ve been mowed down by a bulldozer isn’t bad enough, but the last time you called in when the weather brought on a worsening of symptoms your supervisor made a comment, "This isn't a great way to start the new year, you know." Thinking about the not-so-subtle innuendoes coworkers make as you pass by such as, “Oh, it’s raining, I’m surprised you were able to make it in today,” or “It’s unfortunate you don’t see the logic in what I’m suggesting. Maybe you’ll be able to see things more clearly when the weather improves.”

Reflecting on prior comments fills you with dread as you pick up the phone to call your supervisor. As you tell her your name, you hear the deep sigh and long silence as your supervisor comments, “What is it this time?”

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and multiple sclerosis

Missing time from work due to your illness or for providing care to your family, places you at risk of losing your job for being unreliable. Unfortunately, having MS in our lives causes us to be unreliable. Making plans that we can keep can be difficult; not because we don't want to be reliable but because physically, we can't be. The Family and Medical Leave Act recognizes that struggle. It tries to provide a balance between the employer who needs to have someone doing the job and the worker who wants to be doing the job but can’t due to a physical limitation to prevent him or her from being there.

For the employer

It only protects employees who have already proved they are assets to the company

  • Those who have worked for a full year and
  • Who regularly put in time helping the company be successful.

For the employee who qualifies

It allows them to miss time from work

  • To take care of themselves or their immediate family members with a serious health condition
  • For up to three months (480 hours) in 365 consecutive days and
  • To have a job with the same benefits waiting for them when they return to work.

Specifically, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection to individuals with chronic health conditions like multiple sclerosis if the following applies:

  • Your company employees at least 15 people,
  • You worked for your employer a total of twelve months (during seven years), and
  • During the past 12-consecutive months you worked at least 1,250 hours (that's about 156 days, 31 weeks, or almost eight months) If you worked less time than the 1,250 hours, you do not qualify for FMLA job protection.
  • If you qualify for FMLA and you work 40 hours per week, you may be able to miss up to 480 hours of unpaid leave time per year to handle medical care issues.
  • If you work less than 40-hours per week, the amount of time you can take off per year corresponds to the number of hours you work on average per week.

You also qualify for FMLA if you are the spouse, child, or parent of someone with a serious health condition.

Job protection

FMLA provides for job protection. It does not provide you with a way to receive money while you are out of work. Lost wages are governed entirely by company leave policies unless Medicaid, Workers Compensation, or some other Insurance company supplies employee wages.

Find additional information about the Family and Medical Leave Act here. Search on the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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