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January 28, 2013
Intermittent leave: When are employees qualified?

FMLA leave laws give employees several benefits, including the ability to take a qualified leave of absence either in a block of time or as intermittent leave . While employers may find it burdensome, it must be administered correctly. The first step is understanding the definition of intermittent leave and when an employee qualifies.

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Defining intermittent leave

There are two types of non-continuous FMLA leave: intermittent and reduced-leave schedule.

Intermittent leave refers to FMLA leave taken in separate small blocks of time instead of in one continuous block. Examples include recurring doctor’s appointments, counseling or therapy by a healthcare provider, chemotherapy, or for recurring medical conditions like asthma. It’s easy to miss the need to classify such absences as FMLA leave; educating managers is very important.

A reduced-leave schedule is when an employee’s schedule is modified such that they work a reduced number of work hours each week. Examples include working a shortened workday or working fewer days per week. This might be used during a return to work after an illness, for example.

In common usage, the term "intermittent" leave often refers to both intermittent leave and reduced leave schedules.

Intermittent leave versus continuous FMLA leave

When can intermittent leave be taken? Marylou V. Fabbo told us in a recent CER webinar that it can be taken for:

  • "The serious health condition of an employee or their immediate family member"
  • "The covered service member’s injury or recovery from injury"
  • "Care or psychological comfort to the covered family member or service member"

In any case, it must also be medically necessary to take the leave intermittently. In other words, the need for leave can be best accommodated by intermittent or reduced leave schedule. For example, employees may need intermittent leave in these circumstances:

  • Because of flare-ups of chronic conditions such as asthma, back issues, diabetes, etc.
  • For pregnancy-related reasons such as prenatal appointments, incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically-required bed rest.
  • To attend monthly psychotherapy sessions.
  • To accompany a parent to dialysis weekly (even if the accompaniment is just to provide emotional comfort and support).

While this list is not comprehensive, it gives some examples of when it would be appropriate for an employee to take intermittent leave. With so many situations covered, it’s easy to see the importance of educating everyone involved to be in compliance.

For more information on calculating intermittent leave accurately and allotting the correct time for each affected employee, order the webinar recording of "Mastering Intermittent Leave: How to Correctly Apply FMLA Rules and Stop Abuse." To register for a future webinar, visit http://catalog.blr.com/audio.

Attorney Marylou V. Fabbo is a partner with Skoler, Abbot & Presser, P.C. and heads its litigation department. She has successfully defended employers in civil actions involving many areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour, FMLA, breach of contract, and wrongful discharge.


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