“When Life Throws You a Curveball: Understanding Unforeseeable Leave and the FMLA”

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons. While the FMLA generally requires that leave be “planned” in order to be counted against the employee’s 12-week leave entitlement, there are certain circumstances in which an employee may have an unforeseeable need for leave.

  • What is unforeseeable leave under the FMLA?

Unforeseeable leave refers to situations in which an employee’s need for leave is sudden and unexpected. This can include the employee experiencing a sudden and unexpected serious health condition or a family member experiencing a sudden and unexpected serious health condition that requires the employee’s care. In these cases, the leave may still be protected under the FMLA and the employee may be entitled to take the leave even if it is unplanned and exceeds the 12-week entitlement.

  • How to request unforeseeable leave under the FMLA.

If an employee has an unforeseeable need for leave, they must provide their employer with notice as soon as is practical. However, that notice can be a simple request for an absence from work that involves a need to care for your own, or a close family members serious health condition, and that “practical” notice may be after your shift even started. But note: you do not need to have mentioned the FMLA in order to get legal protection. Employees taking leave for medical reasons may be required to provide their employer with certification from a healthcare provider supporting the need for leave. Although not typical, in some cases, the employer may also request a second or third opinion and may require the employee to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination before returning to work.

  • Benefits and protections provided under the FMLA for unforeseeable leave.

Under the FMLA, employees taking unforeseeable leave are entitled to job protection, meaning that their employer must hold their job open for them while they are on leave. In addition, the FMLA requires that the employee’s health insurance coverage be maintained while they are on leave. While the FMLA does not require employers to pay employees while they are on leave, some employers may choose to do so or may offer other forms of financial assistance, such as paid time off or short-term disability insurance.

  • Tips for employees dealing with unforeseeable leave requests

If you are facing the possibility of an unforeseeable leave, it is important to be prepared and to communicate with your employer as soon as possible. Here are some tips for requesting unforeseeable leave:

  1. Be sure to follow your employer’s policies carefully, especially when reporting your need for leave and subsequent absences.
  2. Provide timely and sufficient notice to your employer, including any necessary certification from a healthcare provider.
  3. Keep your employer informed of your expected return date, or any changes to your expected return date, as soon as you are able.
  4. Be prepared to cooperate with any requests for second or third opinions or fitness-for-duty examinations.
  5. Keep in touch with your employer while you are on leave and make sure they are told enough information to understand your leave request is for a serious health condition.

It is important to remember that the FMLA provides certain rights and protections to employees taking unforeseeable leave. If you have any questions about your rights under the FMLA or if you believe your rights have been violated, you may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. Koc Law LLC practices in Kansas City Missouri and is licensed to practice law in Kansas and Missouri.

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