The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees who meet certain requirements to take unpaid leave from work without fear of job loss or other punishments.
However, your employer needs proof that the leave is necessary. If you're asking for leave due to your own medical condition, that means asking your doctor to complete a form that certifies your need.
A lot of people find that approaching their physician about a leave of absence is more intimidating than approaching their employer. Even terribly sick patients can be afraid of their doctors' reactions.
Don't panic. Here's how to go about the process of asking your doctor about leave:
1. Realize that your doctor does this all the time
This process is new to you, but any doctor with a thriving practice has handled these requests before. Your doctor isn't going to think you are simply looking for a vacation. He or she knows that it's no fun to be sick -- and it's no fun to go without pay while you're on leave, either. Most doctors won't tell patients to take leave (unless they're at serious risk of making their condition worse). Instead, they let patients set their own limits. Assume that your doctor is simply waiting for you to decide that you need a leave of absence.
2. Ask your employer what you need
You do not need to discuss the details of your health with your employer. You just need to obtain the form your employer uses to capture the relevant information -- including the way that the condition affects your ability to work and how long you are expected to be out. Get the form and review it as necessary to make certain that you understand what your doctor needs to fill out.
3. Call the office and ask for a special appointment
More than likely, your doctor will have questions about your job that you need to answer in order to complete the form. Schedule an appointment just to address this issue and the form, so that your doctor isn't trying to complete it in a rush at the end of a regular appointment.
If your right to leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act is being thwarted by your employer, an attorney can help you better understand your rights and your legal options.