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What are Employees’ Right to Stress Leave?

What are Employees' Right to Stress Leave

Stress is inevitable, especially the kind that stems from the workplace. Whether you have a major deadline coming up, or you are having a disagreement with a coworker, jobs can cause some of the highest amounts of stress in a person’s life. According to Everyday Health, workplace stress is ranked as the third biggest stressor in Americans’ lives, with 61 percent of adults attributing their jobs as a major source of stress.

However, stress at work shouldn’t always be chalked up to an approaching deadline or difficult coworkers. Sometimes, the workplace itself can be a serious threat to a person’s health. One way to find some relief is to take a stress leave to cope with severe stress and mental health issues – but what exactly are your rights in the eyes of the law?

Employees' Right to Stress Leave

What Are Your Rights To A Stress Leave?

Stress leave is an extended period of time where an employee takes off work to deal with and recover from a serious stress-related illness or injury, typically a mental illness. Laws regarding stress leaves vary state by state, as well as at the federal level, so it is important to contact your state’s department of labor if you are considering requesting a stress leave.

Legally, employees’ rights to a stress leave depend on whether or not the company they work for is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.” Under the FMLA, employees who claim leave based on their own medical condition such as “stress,” must show that the leave is: (1) the result of a serious health condition and (2) that said condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job.

Who is covered by FMLA?

According to the United States Department of Labor, the following employees are eligible for time off due to the FMLA:

  • Works for a covered employer;
  • Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
  • Has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave; and
  • Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

The law states that the employee must have received “continuing treatment” for the condition. Said continuing treatment, according to the rulings of the court, must relate back to the condition that initially caused the incapacity to work. The law also states that if the employee did not receive inpatient treatment, he must show that he received treatment from a health service provider and that he was incapacitated to work for three consecutive calendar days. Failure to comply with the above requirement will deprive the employee from being entitled to an FMLA leave.

What If Your Employer Isn’t Covered By FMLA?

If your employer is not covered by FMLA, this does not always mean you are out of luck. However, the requested stress leave is in the hands of your employer to approve and may be taken as unpaid personal days. The best way to know if your employed may understand a stress leave is to look at your benefits package. Does it mention that you are allowed to take personal days? If so, your employer may be more understanding of your request.


How To Ask For A Stress Leave

Asking your employer for a stress leave is never an easy thing to do. It often leaves the employee feeling vulnerable as to how the employer will respond. If you are considering requesting time off for a stress leave, whether or not you are eligible under FMLA, it is important to do it during an appropriate time. If you are nearing a deadline or the company is in the middle of a busy season, it is best to wait until things slow down to put in your request.

Under FMLA

Filing for an FMLA leave only requires notice to the employer. A 30-day written notice must be sent to the employer in order for the stress leave to be approved. Also, medical certification must be submitted to the employer. A medical practitioner must attest that the employee suffers from a serious medical condition and explain how such condition impairs the employee’s ability to perform his work. The report must also include the required treatment. This certification can either be issued by the employee’s physician or a mental health specialist.

Five days after requesting stress leave, you should hear back from your employer about the decision. If you do not agree with whatever they decide, you can contact the State Department of Labor in your area or the US Department of Labor.

If your employer approves your stress leave, it is important to take it seriously and follow your doctor’s orders, so you return to work in a healthier, happier state.

For more employment law information, here’s a look at How To Check For Unemployment Eligibility.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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