Human Resources News & Insights

What illnesses warrant FMLA coverage?

The law isn’t completely clear on what illnesses are considered “serious health conditions” under FMLA. What happens when an employee and employer disagree on what makes someone eligible?

Often, they have to fight it out in court. In one recent case, an employee had asked for FMLA leave to care for his mother, who went to the hospital to treat a respiratory condition. Leave was denied, and he sued.

The company’s argument: His mother never suffered from a “serious medical condition.”

The court agreed. Why? The mother only made one hospital visit, and recovered from the treatment in less than 48 hours.

FMLA requirements

Under FMLA, a serious health condition must:

  • require an overnight stay at a medical facility
  • require “continuing treatment” by a health care provider, or
  • result in a “period of incapacity” of at least three consecutive days.

Cite: Scott v. Honda Manufacturing of Alabama

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  • RNS

    A friend of mine was hired at a company with them knowing that she had Chrone’s disease. She became ill and missed 4 days of work in a row. They in turn fired her and told her that she needed focus on getting better. What is the law on this type of matter and can she still receive unemployment benefits. We are from Michigan. Thanks!!!

  • MJP

    Did she qualify for FMLA? If she was just hired, she would not qualify…

  • JMG

    She didn’t qualify for FMLA because she wasn’t employeed for a year and worked the 1250 hours BUT since they let her go due to a medical condition, it can be carried out further by her. She should qualify for unemployment if the company doesn’t want further trouble for poor management of terminating.

  • SCH

    We have an employee who has asked for leave due to anxiety and depression. Her GP completed her paper work but not completely according to federal guidelines. Our lawyer says to let her have her leave, She works in an AR position. Does this quailify as a covered illness?

  • My sister has Crohn’s Disease. It’s unfortunate that most employers are not tolerant of chronic diseases. I know there are two sides to the coin but I’m sure this won’t be the first or last time your friend is let go due to her illness.

    If your friend had been employed long enough to qualify for FMLA (1250 hours and one year), they would have violated FMLA. However, she should be able to collect unemployment (and in Ill. – it is not chargeable to the employer because the separation was for a medical condition). She may have a cause of action under ADA.

  • My wife is the supervisor for a county agency, one of her employees took FMLA, citing that her daughter was having surgery, and she needed to be there to help her daughter. FMLA was granted, howrever it was later learned through other employees that the real reason the woman wanted FMLA is because she wanted to have her breasts enlarged, and she did so, at the same time her daughter was supposed to be recovering. Is this a violation of the FMLA?

    please answer through my Email

  • RutgersFAn

    Generally, elective surgery is not considered as a serious health conditions (per the DOL guidance – see below). Also, how old was her daughter. FMLA only covers children who are minors or age 18 and older and “incapable of self care b/c of mental or physical disability”. If the daughter didn’t fit those criteria, FMLA shouldn’t have been denied.

    Clarification from DOL on how “needed to care for family member” is defined (

    Clarification from DOL on “cosmetic” treatments (such as breat enlargement)

    (c) Conditions for which cosmetic treatments are administered (such as most treatments for acne or plastic surgery) are not “serious health conditions” unless inpatient hospital care is required or unless complications develop. Ordinarily, unless complications arise, the common cold, the flu, ear aches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches other than migraine, routine dental or orthodontia problems, periodontal disease, etc., are examples of conditions that do not meet the definition of a serious health condition and do not qualify for FMLA leave. Restorative dental or plastic surgery
    after an injury or removal of cancerous growths are serious health conditions provided all the other conditions of this regulation are met.

    Mental illness resulting from stress or allergies may be serious health conditions, but only if all the conditions of this section are met.

  • d. parisi

    What about menopause? Can this be considered for FMLA? I cannot take HRT’s. It has been very hard on me. Please respond!