Super helpful legal resource for disability

You’d think after growing up in the disability community I’d know something about the way United States law deals with disability. Yeaaaahhhh…no. Here’s what I want to share: the Family and Medical Leave Act is a piece of legislation enacted to protect people with disabilities from employer punishment when we have to miss work for medical reasons.

What I learned today: it’s not just about pregnancy, or needing to be out of work for weeks to months, although it covers both of those. It also covers situations like mine! (And it covers: caring for a sick close relative, adopting or fostering a child, if an immediate family member is called up for active duty with the army/National Guard, or to care for a relative who is a veteran.)

The three options I now know exist: (1) Continuous leave, (2) Intermittent leave, (3) Reduced work schedule

So I’m probably going to file an intermittent FMLA form, and the doctor’s form that goes along with it. That means if there’s a day when my nausea, vertigo, and light sensitivity are so bad that leaving my apartment or looking at my computer screen would be impossible, I can call in a day off. I can either use my vacation days in combination with this, so I get paid for that day, or I can just take an unpaid day. If I have another bad situation like my recent ulcer diagnosis, and I want a couple of days in a row off to deal with the side effects of the medication (eight pills a day, yuck!), I can do that.

I can’t tell you how much this helps me! I LOVE my job. I HATE that there are days when fibro makes it painful or difficult to *do* my job.

My boss is great, and is as human in his understanding as possible, but now I have a way to take a day off and not have to tell him the gory details of why I can’t come in. The human resources/benefits office can tell my department that I’ve got approved medical paperwork on file, so I don’t have to tell anyone about any of my diagnoses. Bonus: I learned that there’s an environmental safety office that can do an assessment of my workspace, and they may be able to help me get the kind of desk chair my rheumatologist wants me to use to minimize back, arm, and leg joint pain, which will let me work the hours I prefer (in science, we normally work more than the full-time standard of 40 hours a week), and will help me be more effective while I work. (Why, yes, my shoulder is distractingly painful today, and my lower back is making matters worse.)

I only wish I’d known this sooner. It would have been nice not to feel guilty about staying home for a couple of days because I was throwing up or otherwise rejecting food so much I was dizzy and weak.


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