Epilepsy and the Family Medical Leave Act

If you or a loved one suffers from epilepsy and is also employed, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be able to help you overcome the challenges that you may face when working with a serious health condition. The FMLA was initially enacted to help working individuals deal with the stress and difficulty of balancing work and family life when health problems arise.

The FMLA applies to “qualified employees” of a “covered employer.” A covered employer is an employer in a private industry with 50 or more employees in the current or preceding year, and public agencies (including schools) with any number of employees. A qualified employee must meet the following requirements:

  • Employed by the employer for at least 12 months before the start of the FMLA leave;
  • Worked for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 month period immediately preceding the start of the FMLA leave; and
  • Worked at a site at which the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.

If an employee is qualified and they work for a covered employer, he or she is eligible to apply for FMLA leave. Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks per year of job-protected leave for the following reasons:

  • They need to care for a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious medical condition, which is considered to be an illness, injury or condition, either physical or mental, that requires care in a medical center or ongoing medical care from a medical provider;
  • Need to take care of himself/herself due to developing a serious health condition; and/or
  • Need to care for a newborn child, or a child that was recently placed under the employee’s care through adoption.

One common misconception is how the FMLA leave must be used. The 12 weeks per year do not have to be used in one block of time. The 12 weeks may be taken intermittently, in increments of minutes, hours, days, or weeks. Intermittent leave is typically appropriate for someone suffering from epilepsy. Such an individual would need to be absent from work only when they suffered a seizure, during any recovery time, or for doctor visits. At all other times the individual could be present and working. The same can be said for an employee caring for a child, spouse, or parent suffering from epilepsy. If you believe you need to request FMLA leave, you should promptly contact your employer and request the appropriate documentation.

If you or a loved one suffers from such debilitating epilepsy that you cannot maintain employment, the FMLA leave has expired, or the FMLA eligibility requirements were not met, another avenue you should consider is signing up for Social Security Disability. The Social Security Administration has “Listings” related to epilepsy. A Listing for a particular condition contains detailed requirements that the Social Security Administration uses to assess whether a condition is disabling. If an individual’s condition meets the severity requirements outlined in the Listing, he or she should be found disabled. The exact listings for epilepsy are as follows:

  • Listing 11.02 covers Epilepsy (convulsive type, grand mal or psychomotor). This Listing requires documented detailed descriptions of a typical seizure pattern, including all associated phenomena, occurring more frequently than once a month, in spite of at least 3 months of prescribed treatment with: a) daytime episodes (loss of consciousness and convulsive seizures), or b) nocturnal episodes manifesting residuals which interfere significantly with activity during the day.
  • Listing 11.03 covers Epilepsy (non-convulsive type, petit mal, psychomotor, or focal). This Listing requires documented detailed descriptions of a typical seizure pattern, including all associated phenomena, occurring more frequently than once weekly, in spite of at least 3 months of prescribed treatment with: alteration of awareness or loss of consciousness and manifestations of unconventional behavior or significant interference with activity during the day.

Even if the requirements of the above Listings are not met, an individual suffering from epilepsy might still be disabled if he or she is unable to complete a normal workday or work week due to the symptoms of epilepsy, symptoms from other treatment, side effects of medications, etc. For example, if an individual’s side effects from medication cause them to be off-task frequently while at work, or if an individual’s 1 seizure episode per month required additional days of recovery, the individual could still be found disabled under Social Security Disability rules.

If at any point your FMLA leave is violated in some manner, or if you are denied Social Security Disability benefits you believe you are entitled to, we recommend you promptly speak to an attorney. Hopefully you will never need our services, but if you find yourself in such a situation, we would be happy to discuss these matters with you in a free consultation. Call the Indiana Social Security disability lawyers of the Hankey Law Office today at (317) 634-8565 to learn more.