Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a bi-weekly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.
Lessons Learned: FMLA
from Laura at Inside My Story
The journey with Multiple Sclerosis is often unpredictable and sometimes takes an unexpected turn – such is the case with my recent decision to apply for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) paperwork with my employer.
Here’s the background story – I have been with this same employer for 22+ years, working in the field of higher education, and I have generous leave (sick, vacation and holiday) opportunities available. I regularly use one day of sick leave to travel to the MS Clinic I attend for my monthly Tysabri infusions, and as everyone who has MS knows, there are also often other appointments to take care of our other medical needs.
In this day of specialized medicine, it is not unusual for us to have multiple specialists and I often talk about how the number of –ologists I have accumulated after my MS diagnosis. In addition to my Primary Care Physician (PCP), my specialist medical team includes a neurologist, cardiologist, urologist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist and the otolaryngologist. And then there are the specialists in assorted therapy modalities who I credit with keeping me up and moving.
If you are reading this, you probably already understand how all of these medical specialists fit into our care as people living with MS. It was on the advice of my Human Resources (HR) benefits manager that I submitted the paperwork for FMLA so there would be no misunderstandings about my need to use intermittent sick leave for these various appointments; I don’t see all of these doctors every month, and lately I seem to use about 1.5 days a month for medical check-ups. I do my best to schedule early morning or late afternoon appointments for these doctors so I am not significantly disrupting my work day.
In early December I applied for FMLA through our HR department and got the supporting documentation from my neurologist, but then HR surprised/blindsided me last week when I received a message that I am ineligible for FMLA and my request was denied. My immediate reaction can’t be written here, but you can imagine my surprise to be told after 22 years with this same employer, that I can’t ask for this job protection. I immediately headed to my internet companion, Google, and began looking further into the details of FMLA, and that brings me to this Lesson Learned….
According to the law, to qualify for FMLA you have to have WORKED 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. Lunch times do not count in this total. Vacation days do not count in the total. Nor do sick days. We have a great holiday plan and get 13-14 days a year of holiday pay – and you guessed it right if you are thinking holidays don’t count, either.
So thanks to a very generous benefit package and having to use 1-2 days per months for medical appointments, I fall just short of the required 1,250 hours. Even if I add back in the 70 hours (10 days) I took to recover from my bunion surgery in April – sorry, I overlooked adding the Podiatrist to the mix of doctors – my total hours worked still fall just short of the required 1,250 hours. I recently took a fairly serious fall at work due to an environmental hazard, and used sick days for the time off work, because Worker’s Compensation in Ohio doesn’t kick in until you miss 7 consecutive work days. I was fortunate that I was only missed work for 3.5 days, but again, those count against my 1,250 hours in 12 months and even if Worker’s Comp did cover my time, those days can’t be counted toward my 1,250 hours.
No matter how I add it up, it will be difficult to reach 1,250 hours WORKED in any 12 month time unless I pass on using my vacation time and can figure out how to work the holidays. Obviously I shouldn’t cut back on my medical appointments.
Fortunately for now I don’t need the FMLA protection for my missed work time because I still have an abundance of sick leave days accrued thanks to15+ years of good health, but as I stated earlier, the need for sick days is unpredictable – another work related accident or an MS relapse could easily use those days.
Oh, the things we learn on this journey, and I hope something in my writing about this will help if you ever find yourself in the position to need FMLA coverage. You might want to start planning now.
What lessons have you learned lately from living with MS?
This concludes the 131st edition of the Carnival. The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on January 31, 2013. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.