The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection to those that need to miss time from work due to illness, or who need to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition. One of our MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Donna, recently posted a great piece on FMLA, explaining the process, including who qualifies and how it works. In response to this post, we received so many insightful comments from our community members, conveying their personal stories and challenges with FMLA, that we compiled some of their experiences to share.
Granting time to focus on what’s important
There are many great benefits of FMLA, in that it allows many individuals to take the time off they need to care for themselves or a loved one (while still having a job and benefits waiting for them when they return). Many members reported being grateful for their FMLA and the time it gave them to prioritize what’s important.
“I am very thankful for FMLA – I’m in the middle of a transition to part-time work and am no longer able to tolerate full-time. The fatigue and general weakness that come from having MS are awful”
“I am super grateful my company gives me intermittent FMLA. I am covered if I need to call off. So thankful.”
“I still work 4 days a week thanks to FMLA. Sometimes I do call out when MS has taken over and I cannot get out of bed. Lucky for me my coworkers understand and do not make me feel bad for my illness.”
“Your spouse or a caregiver can also apply for FMLA. My husband has it for me to take me to appointments. It’s very helpful.”
“I had a positive experience with my company. They did everything by the book. Which surprised me. I received paperwork on what I needed from them to make my job easier for me.”
“I am grateful to know that my husband can take care of me some days, without losing his job.”
Although a large proportion shared the great benefits of FMLA, for some members, FMLA came with many unexpected challenges and frustrations. Navigating the entire process, relationships with employers, and paperwork were some of the many hurdles our community members faced.
Creating tension in the workplace
Many shared the stress and unexpected challenges brought forth from coworkers and employers in response to FMLA, specifically, it’s strain on workplace relationships.
“Unfortunately, FMLA doesn’t stop your colleagues or Supervisor from pressuring you or making you feel worse because of restrictions or having to call off work.”
“At first my coworkers were amazing, for like half of the first year after my dx. But then, my life at work turned into a torturous hell.”
“My coworkers were very understanding in the beginning, but turned very ugly quickly. I loved my job, but could not stand my coworkers! I dreaded going into work especially after having to take time off. It was almost a relief when I was put on permanent disability.”
“I was treated like crap. My boss made my life a living hell. They were trying to make me quit.”
“I worked for 34 years and ended up being shunned by everyone including people I thought were friends.”
Difficulties navigating the approval process
Many felt that the process of receiving FMLA was extremely challenging. Whether it was the amount of paperwork or the long wait times, these obstacles were not always easy to overcome.
“It was a tough fight in the beginning.”
“Although I appreciate FMLA I felt harassed the entire time I was on it (and having to have the paperwork recertified often didn’t help either).”
“Waiting the full year before knowing you’re protected has been the challenge.”
“My wife has MS. I’ve been at the same job for 12 years and was considering making a move to a new company. Then I found out about the year wait so it is holding me back. With this disease being unpredictable I am unsure that I can make this move should she require more care since I won’t have the FMLA protection for a year at a new job.”
“While working for Probation I was denied FMLA. I fought hard, but ultimately was forced out of my job. Still hurts several years later.”
“I had to go on short term FMLA, and the disability company screwed up and didn’t turn in my doctor’s paperwork and let my approval run out of time. So, my job wasn’t waiting for me once I finally got cleared. I never got replaced and was let go.”
“I can apply, but only for 3 consecutive days. They denied my doctors request for 5 per week. Also, if I don’t use it in a certain period, they cancel it and tell me to reapply if I need it. This is then another doctor’s appointment, and my doctor charges a fee to fill out paperwork. Sadly, no one seems to understand MS.”
“Only applies when you work at a place with more than 50 employees. I found out the hard way it doesn’t apply to a small private company.”
FMLA can be a great benefit, helping grant workers the time they need to take care of personal or family health-related obligations. However, the process and its impact on each individual may vary greatly from workplace to workplace and person to person. Some of our members found their FMLA quite helpful, while others struggled to navigate the approval process and FMLA’s impact on their workplace environment.
We are interested in hearing from you! If you have any experience with FMLA, positive or negative, feel free to comment below and let us know!