Knowing Your Rights Under the FMLA

It's so important for Texas employees to know their rights under the Family Medical Leave Act. The law provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for a personal illness or to care for a family member who is ill. The FMLA also provides for maternity and paternity leave for new parents.

One benefit in the FMLA that many people don't know about is the ability to take time away from work for mental illness. While this type of medical condition can be stigmatized, it's important for employees to know that they have a right to seek treatment and take time off of work if necessary. Not all employers know how to properly navigate this situation, so it's important that employees figure out their rights.

Employees seeking or taking advantage of FMLA leave need to know that in addition to allowing the leave, an employer must also withhold judgment about the legitimacy of the leave. It's up to doctors to determine whether an employee is actually ill and in need of time off from work, not to a boss or manager who thinks the employee seems fine.

This is particularly crucial when employees take time off for mental health reasons, or when they need accommodation at work for the same reason.

In one case from 2012, a woman who struggled with depression was terminated after a suicide attempt left her bosses questioning whether she could still perform her job duties. During the trial for the case, one of the managers who made that decision said that he had relied on his experience with his mother who had also suffered from depression to inform his evaluation of the employee. The court found that employers needed to rely on medical advice about a specific situation to determine whether an employee who had attempted suicide was in fact fit to return to work. To terminate an employee based on one's own opinions can constitute disability discrimination, which is of course illegal.