As we recognize and wrap-up May as Mental Health Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Labor wants to remind us that the FMLA covers situations when an employee’s mental health condition inhibits them from working.
In a Fact Sheet published this month, the DOL provided several helpful examples of mental health- related FMLA-triggering situations. Those include the following:
- Flare ups of the employee’s own mental health condition: “Karen is occasionally unable to work due to severe anxiety. She sees a doctor monthly to manage her symptoms. Karen used FMLA leave to take time off when she is unable to work unexpectedly due to her condition and when she has a regularly scheduled appointment to see her doctor during her work shift.”
- When an employee needs leave related to a covered family member’s mental health condition: “Wyatt uses one day of FMLA leave to travel to an inpatient facility and attend an after-care meeting for his fifteen-year-old son who has completed a 60-day inpatient drug rehabilitation treatment program.”
- When an employee needs leave related to an adult child’s mental health condition: “Anastasia uses FMLA leave to care for her daughter, Alex. Alex is 24 years old and was recently released from several days of inpatient treatment for a mental health condition. She is unable to go to work or school and needs help with cooking, cleaning, shopping, and other daily activities.”
The updated guidance couldn’t feel more timely in light of the challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey, comparing the number of people reporting anxiety or depression symptoms during 2019 as compared to 2020, found that reports of anxiety symptoms tripled and depression symptoms had quadrupled during that timeframe. As a result, as employers, we need to know how to manage and support our employees during these difficult times. One important way to support our employees is to properly understand (and, train our front-line managers) to recognize when an employee has provided sufficient facts to trigger the FMLA and to take appropriate steps to respond to the employee’s request.