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Family medical leave for chronic illnesses

April 11 is Parkinson’s Disease International Awareness Day. Many people in the United States are somewhat familiar with Parkinson’s Disease because of celebrities such as Michael J. Fox, who suffers from the disorder. It is a disease that affects the nervous system overtime, typically becoming increasingly worse. Symptoms include tremors in the hands, slow movement and stiffness, among other things.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease make it almost impossible to maintain certain types of work. If the disorder has progressed enough, a person with it would be unable to type, dice vegetables or pour drinks, for example. In many workplaces, accessibility functions make it possible for someone with Parkinson’s Disease — and other disorders that affect movement and functionality — to continue working for many years. For example, someone with the disease might be able to use modern voice-to-text software to create typed documents or emails.

While the modern workplace often makes it more possible for those who are dealing with chronic illnesses to keep working, it’s also true that most chronic illnesses come with good days and bad days. On the worst days, people with such illnesses sometimes can’t even get out of bed, much less make it to the office. What do you do when your chronic illness means you miss enough days of work to be fired?

In some cases, the Family and Medical Leave act might be able to help, at least temporarily. In addition to providing protection for individuals who have to take a single, long leave because of health conditions, FMLA also provides protection for certain individuals who have chronic conditions. While the use of such protections is limited by law and circumstance, it can protect you from retaliation, termination and discipline if you are unable to work on certain days because of your illness.

If you believe you have a right to such FLMA coverage and your employee is refusing it, then you could have a legal claim. Consider speaking with a legal professionals to understand your rights and options.

Source: Mayo Clinic, “Parkinson’s disease,” accessed April 08, 2016

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