Compliance Memos: November 2018

Tasha Patterson@Work

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Compliance Memos_November 2018FMLA Leave for Chronic Conditions Requires Ongoing Care

Employers often assume an employee is receiving medical care and seldom review the frequency of physician visits when granting Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, but this issue was the crux of Watkins v. Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. In July, 2015, Karen Watkins was the victim of a random act of violence, exacerbating a formerly stable case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her military service. A downward spiral in her work  performance occurred; only after termination for job abandonment did Watkins request FMLA leave or say she was denied her FMLA rights. Since Watkins was  never hospitalized nor had inpatient treatment, the court held she had to show she received continuing treatment for PTSD: doctor’s visits at least twice a year. She did not meet that burden so her case was dismissed. Attorney Katrin Schatz of Jackson Lewis raised key questions for employers. “When an employee requests FMLA leave for a chronic health condition, take a careful look at the certification form,” she said. “Does the provider identify a period of hospitalization or identify  recent dates of treatment? Does the provider confirm that the employee will need periodic visits at least twice a year? If the answer is negative, the employee may well not qualify for FMLA leave.” To learn more, visit http://dmec.org/2018/10/09/fmla-leave-for-chronic-health-conditions/.

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