If you have a condition that makes your health somewhat unpredictable, you may need -- at most -- the ability to work a reduced schedule. Your employer, however, may decide that it's too much trouble to work around your unpredictable condition and want you to take continuous leave until your condition becomes stable.
What are your rights?
According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you have the right to any medically-necessary leave. Additionally, whether that leave it intermittent or continuous is up to you and your doctor -- not your employer. Here are the basics you need to know.
What is the definition of intermittent leave?
Intermittent leave is any leave that essentially leaves you on a reduced schedule. It involves a series of absences all taken for the same medical reason within the same 12-month period that's covered by your FMLA request.
For example, if you have Lupus, you may inform your employer of your FMLA request for accommodation for your flares while adjusting to new treatment. You may have to ask for a reduced schedule and work part time for a few weeks while you get your symptoms back under control.
While your employer may prefer that you take off completely in order to ease his or her scheduling issues, that isn't your employer's call to make.
What are your obligations?
You still have to comply with your employer's rules regarding reasonable notice. For example, if you aren't able to entirely predict when you will need leave in the mornings due to problems with nausea, you still need to call your employer as soon as you know that you won't be able to work your scheduled shift to avoid being a "no show."
You also have to make a reasonable effort to schedule doctor's appointments around your work schedule. For some employees, that's not really possible. For example, if you work a 9-to-5 job, you may not really have any way to schedule a doctor's visit at any other time. You can, however, schedule your doctor's appointments at the end of the day whenever possible so that you disrupt the workplace less by coming and going.
Employers don't like the inconvenience of intermittent leave and will often balk at allowing it. However, if you learn more about this law, you can assert your rights under the FMLA with confidence.