Mental Stress Leave: Time with Employer Among Eligibility Factors


During the past two years, we’ve had several employees claiming they are dealing with depression and anxiety/stress. Can they file for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for these claims?

Although it isn’t automatic, employees can file for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) under certain circumstances.

Medical Certification

Not all claims of mental stress are eligible for these leaves, but if a doctor examines the individual and completes and signs a medical certification that the individual is incapacitated by mental stress, the employee may be eligible for the leave.

Indeed, FMLA (mirrored in this respect by CFRA) states that “a serious health condition entitling an employee to FMLA leave means an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care… or continuing treatment by a health care provider….”

The COVID-19-related pandemic has exacerbated claims of people suffering feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, irritation, anger and denial.

It is not uncommon to lack motivation, have trouble sleeping or concentrating and to feel tired, overwhelmed, burned out, sad and even depressed. Consequently, these requests for time off are escalating.

Short-Term Employees

Calls to the CalChamber Labor Law Helpline in recent months more often than not involve situations with very short-term employees.

Therefore, remember that to qualify for both of these leaves, employees have to have worked for the employer for a year or more, and to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the immediately preceding year.

Accordingly, these short-term employees will not be entitled to either leave. FMLA covers employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles, but CFRA covers employers with five or more employees, so the employee count may be an easy requirement to satisfy.

Dana Leisinger, HR Adviser, CalChamber

CalChamber members can read more about Certification for Family and Medical Leave in the HR Library and HRCalifornia Extra’s Seven Ways Employers Can Help Employees Manage Fear, Anxiety for tips on how to encourage employees to decrease their stress and anxiety. Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.

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