In the summer of 2020, the Department of Labor made extensive changes to its Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms. What does that mean for you, for someone with an Autoimmune Disease? Someone with a chronic condition and invisible illness? Are these changes helpful to you or do they set us back? Here is the guidance you need on the updated FMLA forms.
I remember when I was in the middle of a health crisis and looking at the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) form and just shaking my head.
I had no clue where to start.
I had no idea how to advise my doctor.
They want a start and stop date for my disability?
An Autoimmune Disease is not a broken arm.
The previous FMLA forms were not designed with a chronic illness in mind. But what about the revised forms? How do they compare? How should you go about completing them if you have some kind of chronic illness or Autoimmune Disease?
In the summer of 2020, the Department of Labor revised the FMLA forms. In this article, I’ll share the links to DOL’s revised FMLA forms, along with suggestions and best practices for someone with a chronic illness or Autoimmune Disease. I will not be getting into all of the nuances of each form. If you have any further questions, it’s advised to contact your HR department or the Department of Labor for further clarification.
Links to the DOL’s Revised FMLA Forms
Is My Employer Required to Use the DOL’s FMLA Forms?
The use of the DOL’s FMLA forms is entirely optional. Employers are able to create their own if they wish. But because these forms are the “gold standard” for employers, the majority of employers use the DOL forms and corresponding guidance.
Important Updates to DOL’s FMLA Forms and the Impact on Chronic Illness
I will not cover the form for family members, but I will cover the other three forms in the section here, and the impact of these changes for individuals with an Autoimmune Disease or other chronic condition. You can always learn more and keep up to date on the impacts of Autoimmune Disease in the Workplace by subscribing to my newsletter!
WH-381 – Notice of Eligibility
This form contains your rights and responsibilities. Important updates to this form include:
- Employers clarify the service requirement and how many days are needed if it’s not met.
- Specifics on additional information needed from the health care provider.
- Leave entitlement rights are spelled out more specifically.
- Part A – Leave Entitlement. Pay close attention to how this is calculated, especially for a chronic disease that is not a “start or stop” condition.
- Additional specifics on paid leave, health benefits, and return to work.
WH-382 – Designation Notice
This form designates approval status and “duplicates” the additional information needed. Important updates to this form include:
- Whether FMLA was approved or denied.
- Specifics on additional information needed from the health care provider (“duplicated” from WH-381 – same but a little different).
- Clarifies that if a second or third opinion is required, it will be at the employer’s expense. While this is the law, oftentimes employees think that if their employer requests a second (or third) opinion, it is at the employee’s expense. It is not. It’s the employer’s expense for additional opinions.
- The addition of a box with “unscheduled” leave will help those with chronic conditions and unpredictable flareups.
WH-380-E – Certification of Health Care Provider
This form is to be completed by your health care provider. Updates include:
- Part A allows for multiple checkboxes to expand the definition of why the employee is requesting FMLA. The addition of Chronic Conditions, Permanent or Long Term Conditions, and Conditions Requiring Multiple Treatments is a win for individuals with chronic illness. This helps to designate the medical condition is not a “start and stop” condition such as pregnancy or a broken arm. Multiple boxes can be checked in this section to clarify the employee’s chronic condition.
- Part B – Amount of Leave. This section still misses the mark for employees with a chronic condition. “Lifetime, unknown, or indeterminate” are not allowed to be used on this form, even if the employee’s condition is a lifetime illness. That being said, you will need to have a discussion with your doctor as to your history of flare-ups/absences and how that may predict the future. Based on my own personal situation, it is always best to overestimate the amount of time and not need it rather than underestimate the time and have to go through the hoops of additional paperwork. Always be honest, but we all know that chronic conditions and flare-ups have a mind of their own! Work with your doctor to create the best language and restrictions based on your condition and history.
- Part C – Essential Job Functions. This is another section that completely misses the intent for someone with a chronic illness. While if you are absent, you will not be able to perform your essential job function, it does not allow for language around reasonable accommodations to work from home (more forms!) and it once again favors an event such as not being able to stand due to a broken foot. Once again, do your best to work with your doctor to come up with the best language for your condition.
While the new forms have made improvements for the chronic illness community, they still have a ways to go for chronic conditions.
If you are interested in learning more about your role as an employee with an autoimmune disease or other chronic condition, be sure to check out my online course, An Employee’s Guide to Managing Autoimmune Disease in the Workplace. In this course you will learn:
Objective #1: Learn what Autoimmune Diseases are and their importance in the organization as a legal disability.
Objective #2: Learn what your legal rights are as an employee with AI, and how to avoid discrimination.
Objective #3: Learn how to navigate medical documentation and the FMLA process.
Objective #4: Learn what the top reasonable accommodations are for those with Autoimmune Disease.
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