Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carnival of MS Bloggers #131

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.


  1. I've never heard of using FMLA time until all personal/sick/vacation time was used up anyway. It's important to have paperwork in and ready to go in the event that it's needed. It's to protect workers whose sick days exceed their company's absentee policy so they don't get fired. Try this on for size. My boss was the V.P. of Human Resources in a mid-sized company. She actually said to me, "If I don't see your disability you don't have one." I saw the writing on the wall when I started needing my cane for work. She paid me to leave and I was glad to go. Didn't do much for my self confidence, though! I'm on disability and wouldn't be able to handle the stress of working in that kind of environment any more.

  2. I was able to use intermitant FMLA when I was employed I sure wish you qualified it helped me so much I would usually take a half day every other week which helped with appointments and I was able to take mine unpaid when I wanted so I was able to save my vacation to to actually use for exstended periods I just wanted to take for myself and my family that we would have time to deal with the effects MS has had on us and sometimes even enjoy the time off when it was vacation. Im glad you wrote this to helpt those that may have not known what FMLA was or how it could be used. Good luck all