The courts recently decided that Boeing may have made a mistake when it fired an employee who was taking leave related to her migraines under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This decision reminds us that migraines make a person eligible for FMLA leave, which is protected from being considered as a factor in job performance or termination decisions.
What Is the FMLA?
The FMLA is a law that allows people to take time off from work to care for themselves or a loved one who is ill. Originally intended to help parents, the act has been dramatically expanded in practice, if not in text.
The FMLA guarantees that you can take up to 12 weeks off of unpaid time to perform the necessary care, which may be for oneself or for another loved one, and your employer cannot fire you for doing so. The rule only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Only certain family health conditions are valid to claim FMLA leave. Migraines are on the list of eligible conditions, but other types of headaches are not.
The court recently reasserted the importance of this rule with a decision against Boeing in the firing of one of its employees.
Fired for Migraines Headaches
The court considered the case of Jill Alexander, a longtime Boeing employee and migraine sufferer. She had long taken partial days and worked from home in the past, but Boeing eliminated both those policies. Then in 2012, Alexander learned she was eligible for FMLA leave, and she applied for intermittent leave, which allowed her to take off time as necessary for her migraines.
This worked fairly well until Alexander took off for four consecutive days, at which point Boeing decided to fire her.
Alexander sued, claiming that Boeing had not respected her rights under the FMLA. Although Boeing asked for a summary judgment against Alexander, the court decided against Boeing might have violated her rights and the case needed to go to trial.
What about Other Headaches?
The problem with the case of Alexander is that it shows us only that people with a migraine are eligible for FMLA leave. If you experience other types of headaches, your options are: work through it, or take a day off using your sick leave. You know your sick leave is limited, and it is hard to take these days off without knowing you won’t be fired for them.
A better approach would be to reduce or eliminate headaches with drug-free TMJ treatment. To learn whether TMJ treatment can help you, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.