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Does the Family Medical Leave Act cover mental health issues?

The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal employment law that provides significant protections to millions of American workers, including many Colorado employees. However, there is sometimes a lack of knowledge among employees about their rights under this law - a problem that can sometimes lead to discrimination on the part of employers.

Many of our readers may already know that they can take medical leave under the FMLA if they need to have some kind of surgical procedure, or if they succumb to a sudden and serious physical illness. Taking leave under the protections of the FMLA will ensure that an employee who does so will be able to return to their position of employment after they deal with the medical issue. But, what some Colorado employees may not know is that the same type of leave can be taken to deal with a mental health issue as well.

According to a recent news report, that is exactly what one university employee attempted to do in late 2012. The woman, a long-time employee at a major American university, suffers from bipolar disorder. This is a mental health condition that can be controlled by medication and counseling, but this particular employee started to have problems with the condition while she was at work, so she applied to take eight weeks of leave under the FMLA in order to address the issue. When she returned to work after that time period, however, this employee reported a serious change in attitude on her employer's part. In her lawsuit, the employee alleges that her employer discriminated against her for taking the FMLA leave after she returned to work by giving her a negative performance evaluation and then demoting her.

If the allegations in this employee's lawsuit are true, this would indeed constitute a violation of the FMLA. By filing a lawsuit against her employer, the employee intends to draw attention to the university's insensitive approach to people who suffer from mental health issues.

Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian, "Penn employee sues over alleged retaliation for medical leave," Sarah Smith, Feb. 17, 2014

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