Time Off for Heart Condition Might Qualify Employee for FMLA

Q: I recently had a serious heart problem. I was
hospitalized, released and then re-admitted. I think I am now ready to
resume full-time work. I work as a Director at a large biotech firm. I
am worried about job security as I work for a man who is a Type A and
does not like when anyone is out sick. How can I protect myself?

A: I am sorry that you had a serious health issue. It sounds like it was frightening. I can share a few recommendations.

First, make sure that you are physically ready to return to a full-time
schedule. Discuss the demands of your job with your physician. You
will want to make sure that you are ready to return so you don’t have
another relapse. Your employer will likely request a note from your
physician ensuring that you are physically able to fulfill the demands
of your job. Your physician may request a gradual re-entry back to
work. I have noticed many physicians request one week of a part-time
schedule before resuming a full-time schedule.

If you work at a large firm, you may be protected by the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is a federal law which provides
job-protected leave for certain conditions to eligible employees. One
of the conditions is an employee’s own serious health condition. Your
heart problem, and related hospitalization, likely qualify as a serious
health condition. To be eligible for a FMLA leave, your employer must
employee 50 or more workers. Additionally, you must have worked for at
least 12 months for your employer and you must have worked at least 1250
hours in the 12 months prior to your heart condition. You also must
have worked at a location where your employer has 50 employees within 75
miles of that work site. For more information about FMLA, review
http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf to better understand
your rights and your employer’s obligations.

Your manager’s attitude is disappointing. There are challenges in
all of our lives which necessitate time off from work. One way to
mitigate his concerns is to develop a written update upon your return.
This will reduce your manager’s concerns about anything “slipping
through the cracks.” Best wishes for your continued recovery!

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.