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February 11, 2010
Serious Health Conditions: Understanding FMLA Rules

In a 2010 BLR webinar, “Solving PTO Problems: How to Reduce Unscheduled Absences Without Alienating Employees or Violating the Law,” attorney Catherine Moreton Gray addressed problems that can occur under the Family and Medical Leave Act in a paid time off program when employees have serious health conditions.

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While the new FMLA regulations that took effect Jan. 16, 2009 retain the six individual definitions of “serious health condition,” they add guidance on some regulatory matters.

First, said Gray, the “serious health condition” rule now clarifies that, if an employee is taking leave involving more than three consecutive calendar days of incapacity plus two visits to a healthcare provider, the two visits must occur within 30 days of the period of incapacity. The first visit must occur within seven days of onset of incapacity.

Second, it defines “periodic visits to a healthcare provider” for chronic serious health conditions as at least two visits to a healthcare provider per year.

Catherine Moreton Gray is an associate attorney in the Labor and Employment section of Robinson & Cole LLP in Hartford, Conn. She has more than 20 years of experience in human resources and employment law. Contact her at

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