Depression falls into a tricky area under the Family and Medical Leave Act. It warrants the protections and benefits that FMLA offers when it affects a worker's ability to perform his job. However, an employee needs more than a diagnosis of depression to force his employer to grant him the time away from work the act allows.
FMLA and Depression
FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, employers are entitled to ask for medical certification that your condition prevents you from doing your job, or that required treatment necessitates time away from the office. Many employers have standard forms for this, but a physician or psychologist can use their own. A specialist, like a psychologist, does need to indicate what job functions the depression keeps you from performing. The specialist also must confirm the treatments are necessary and give details about your treatment schedule.
The 11th Circuit Court ruled in 2014 that for an employee to qualify to be granted leave under the FMLA, that employee has to demonstrate the leave is intended to treat the depression. It's not enough that the leave simply have the potential for a positive impact. That case determined an employee could not get FMLA leave for depression to take an extended vacation despite a doctor's suggestion that the extra time away would help. Employers have the right to insist a medical practitioner certify that a particular activity is for treatment purposes before agreeing to the request.
- Employment Law E-Buzz: Did You Know…Depression Does Not Automatically Qualify An Employee For FMLA Leave
- McGuireWoods: Court Rules Depressed Employee’s Vacation Request Does Not Qualify For FMLA Leave
- U.S. Department of Labor: Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition (Family and Medical Leave Act)