Author Topic: Medical leave due to stress? Looking for advice from those who've done it (& HR)  (Read 7382 times)

a plan comes together

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Anyone here gone on medical leave due to stress at work?

I have many questions:
1. How do you do it?
2. What (if anything) do you communicate to your employer?
3. What (if anything) do you need from your doctor?
4. How long can you be out for?
5. Did your employer retaliate against you when you returned?

Also curious for the view on HR side.

mathjak107

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these are the requirements .

Medical and disability-related leave rules: Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave for treatment of or recovery from serious health conditions. The FMLA's definition of a serious health condition is broader than the definition of a disability, encompassing pregnancy and many illnesses, injuries, impairments, or physical or mental conditions that require multiple treatments and intermittent absences. Generally, things like cosmetic surgery, colds, headaches, and routine medical and dental care are not included. FMLA leave is unpaid, but employers may require employees to concurrently take paid leave, such as accrued vacation or sick leave, or employees may elect to do so.


http://www.troutmansanders.com/common-misunderstandings-about-medical-leaves-of-absence-12-12-2012/


https://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/employ.htm
« Last Edit: August 27, 2016, 03:44:42 PM by mathjak107 »

mathjak107

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as far as retaliation ? lets face it employers can do pretty much what they want as long as they stay within the law .

perhaps at one point you would have been a consideration for a promotion . while they can't legally hold it against you they can just bypass you . after all if i was your employer i may think you can't handle stress well or may be unreliable . so while i can't directly hold things against you i can indirectly take it in to consideration .

a plan comes together

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Do they even need to know it's stress? How much do you need to disclose?

jim555

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You can do FMLA, however they will probably retaliate.  Not in an overt manner, but things like refusing to promote.  They legally are not supposed to do that.
You give the form directly to HR who must hold it away from your regular folder.

Catbert

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Realize that stress is not a medical condition so being stressed is not going to trigger FMLA.  Depression,  heart attack, uncontrolled high blood pressure etc (which might be caused by stress) could support a request for FMLA.  In dealing with HR focus on your medical condition, whatever that might be, rather than focusing on what you believe to the cause.

former player

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Anyone here gone on medical leave due to stress at work?

I have many questions:
1. How do you do it?
2. What (if anything) do you communicate to your employer?
3. What (if anything) do you need from your doctor?
4. How long can you be out for?
5. Did your employer retaliate against you when you returned?

Also curious for the view on HR side.

Start by checking your contract/terms of employment/employee handbook.  If you have a trade union at work, join it and ask for advice from them.

Depending how long you need/want to take off, you may need a doctor's certificate.  Think in advance about what you can say to your doctor and would like the certificate to say. 

Think in advance about consequences of what a medical certificate might say (eg do your professional licensing requirements include disclosure of certain conditions, what about life insurance/professional insurance).

If you work for a large organisation, you may be able to get the certificate sent to HR, bypassing your immediate bosses so that they don't find out what's on it.

How long you can be out for depends on your employment terms and any applicable laws.  If your employer is sympathetic you may get longer than is in your terms of employment, or may get time without pay to add to a contractual or statutory paid term.

Retaliation is more likely from an immediate boss than from an organisation as a whole.  If your immediate boss is what's creating the stress, your best bet is to move away from them, job wise, either into another position in the same company or a new job.

IWanttoBelieve

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Wouldn't that hurt future jobs, CV, references?
My experience is that employers want the less surprises and would rather avoid recruiting people that can breakdown.

former player

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Wouldn't that hurt future jobs, CV, references?
My experience is that employers want the less surprises and would rather avoid recruiting people that can breakdown.
If you are at the point of taking medical leave for mental health reasons, you are dealing with an immediate emergency and the possible knock-on effects in the future are not going to be at the forefront.

If it is a shortish leave, it will be irrelevant to the future.  If it is longer, there are bigger problems.

More desirable alternatives might be to find a new job while still employed or to give notice and then try to find a new job.  But if circumstances are against that then sick leave can still be the best option.

Blueskies123

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You can do FMLA, however they will probably retaliate.  Not in an overt manner, but things like refusing to promote.  They legally are not supposed to do that.
You give the form directly to HR who must hold it away from your regular folder.

Why would an employer ever promote someone that took time off due to stress?  If they cannot handle their current job why would they give them more responsibility? 

jim555

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Remember FMLA is a Federal law, they have no say in your taking it.  It is for up to 12 weeks a year.  It is a set form that your doctor fills in.  When you take your time you call in and say it is a FMLA day, you do not need to tell them the medical reason.  HR may send you to their own doctor if they want to challenge it.

Blueskies123

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I wonder if the people that wrote the FMLA rules ever went back to see if the people they intended to use FMLA were the people that actually use FMLA.  From my experience I would think 9 people out of 10 just use it for more time off.

jim555

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I wonder if the people that wrote the FMLA rules ever went back to see if the people they intended to use FMLA were the people that actually use FMLA.  From my experience I would think 9 people out of 10 just use it for more time off.
You need a valid medical reason with a doctor who will fill out the form, so I don't think FMLA abuse is a thing.

Red Beard

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We have dealt with a few similar cases at my employer, and I can tell you that a majority of the mental health FMLA requests were not approved by physicians. Our company is very understanding of these things (we are in a high stress field) and offered unpaid leave to those employees not eligible for FMLA. In terms of retaliation, we view try to view mental illness as any other illness - with appropriate care and treatment people recover - we would never not promote someone whose appendix burst or had pneumonia, but I realize this might not be the case everywhere.

I will say, if the job is causing you so much stress, shouldn't you be looking towards a more sustainable long term solution (finding another job)?

little_brown_dog

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I did not go on medical leave but I dropped to part time for an indefinite period due to stress related health conditions. I suffered with migraines for about a year before we decided enough was enough. I basically sat down with my boss and said that my husband and I had made the decision to change our lifestyle for my health. I said I loved my work and my team, but I just could not manage working and commuting for almost 60 hours a week anymore. I offered to go part time, obviously taking a major cut in pay. I reiterated that I wanted to continue working there, but I needed to change the work arrangement to do that. I was the most established member of the team, and an extremely high performer, so they decided it was much better to keep me part time than lose me completely.

I wish I could say the transition was smooth, but it certainly wasn’t. The team was so accustomed to the sheer amount of work I could churn out in a 40 hour work week that they had a very hard time adjusting to my 20 hour schedule. Even though my productivity per hour worked was even better than before, and even though I was still producing top notch results, my boss really struggled with not having me available 5 days a week. It caused a lot of unnecessary stress and I was reprimanded more than once for not being more available…on my days off. It wasn’t retaliation for going part time/taking more time for myself, but an inability to handle the stress caused by losing that extra working time from an employee she relied upon heavily. However, I will say that going part time was definitely the right move for my health. My migraines went away completely and my mood immediately turned around.

If you are a key team member who does a lot of heavy lifting in an overworked team, it is going to be really hard to take a leave of absence or reduce your workload without incurring at least some resentment and frustration. It is really hard to make a temporary change or try to hit pause on your career with the hopes of just starting up again like nothing ever happened. I really had to think long and hard about downshifting but it was worth it to me.  No regrets here, but you need to think really carefully before attempting these things. As a former manager who made this type of choice myself, I still would be highly suspicious of any employee that needed to take significant time off or downshift work due to stress. People like me (and maybe you?) are just huge flight risks - when you ask for time off/reduced hours, you show your hand. You are telling them they are not the most important thing in your life, and if needed, you will sideline them. As a result, if they are smart they will only invest so much in you to mitigate risk in case you burn out or decide to bail again. Employers can't officially cite your previous absence as a specific reason for withholding a promotion, etc, but they certainly will consider it when making any decisions about whether or not you can handle new responsibilities, if you deserve a raise, etc. No manager wants to give a raise or promotion to someone who might burn out or leave within the year.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2016, 10:08:15 AM by little_brown_dog »

Captain and Mrs Slow

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Perhaps too far off topic but I'd say to consider engineering your layoff. It's a (expensive) ebook by financial Samurai and the basic gist is to work a deal to leave with a buyout rather than outright quitting. It's the plan my wife will use to get early (standard as we're boomers) retirement. For some reason people seem to think it's unethical.

coffeehound

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I wonder if the people that wrote the FMLA rules ever went back to see if the people they intended to use FMLA were the people that actually use FMLA.  From my experience I would think 9 people out of 10 just use it for more time off.

Wow.  Just, wow to that unhelpful comment. FMLA requires documentation from a physician, and I think few people who simply 'want time off' would be able to convince their physicians to put the physicians' own reputations on the line for someone who wants time off. Doctors have to certify that the leave is medically necessary.
May your skies always be blue, and may you never have to deal with serious illness, either your own or that of someone you love.

I used FMLA so I could care for a seriously ill parent.  Being protected from being fired from my at-will job, while frequently needing to go to the hospital at, often, literally, the spur of the moment, allowed me to keep a roof over my head.

According to a friend who recently took FMLA for anxiety issues, your employer cannot use your leave against you in evaluations or promotion decisions - officially.  However, sometimes getting out from under a dark cloud can assist you in making good/better decisions about whether or not to stay at your current job, and allow you time to apply/interview for another job.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 01:20:12 PM by coffeehound »

Zamboni

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This is purely anecdotal, but it seems to me that the biggest beneficiaries of FMLA have been people caring for newborns or sick/elderly relatives. Those are situations that employers were not always sympathetic to covering before . . . but if you were too sick yourself to work, you could go on disability at many places.

I remember having an emergency C-section with premature twins, going on FMLA leave, and then when I got back a couple of coworkers asking how my "vacation" had been. Ummm . . . . a nearly sleepless vacation recovering from major abdominal surgery? Yeah, fun times!

Bear in mind that, if you can't return to work immediately when your leave is up, some places will terminate your position. This just happened where I work . . . officially the person "retired," but the announcement came from the big boss on exactly the 3 month anniversary of the person going on leave . . . and I know that the person was not planning to retire early and certainly was not in a financial position to retire.