Employee rights to stress leave

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, an employee is entitled to take off 12 unpaid weeks from work in a 12-month period, as long as the employee has worked 1,250 hours or more over the 12 months immediately prior to the leave. An employee needs to notify their employer that they will be off from work and when they expect to return. The employer, under the law, cannot deny the employee leave for a serious medical condition.

Worker's Compensation Eligibility

If a physician places an employee on stress leave, the employee has the right to take a leave from work. Under some states' worker's compensation laws, an employee is eligible for medical benefits and wage-loss compensation for the time off. This law pertains only to an employee whose stress condition was caused by work issues.

Types Of Stress

An employee can be stressed for many reasons within or outside the workplace. Family issues and financial hardships are factors outside of the workplace that can cause an employee to become stressed. Factors at work that can cause employees to become stressed include employment insecurity, employee misbehavior, motivational issues, personality differences and performance problems.

Right To Take Leave

When an employee takes time off from work because of stress, the employer cannot terminate, out of retaliation, the employee once they returns to work. This is considered discrimination and is illegal for the employer to do. An employee has the right to take off time. Once the employee returns, the worker can only be evaluated on work performance, not because of a pre-existing medical condition, unless the condition keeps the employee from doing their job.

Sick Pay

An employee does not have to be paid when taking a stress leave of absence. In some states, however, an employee has the right to take any accrued sick leave time and use it for the time off on stress leave. Not all employers are required to let an employee use sick pay. Some states require the employee be paid at the end of the year for any unused sick time.


There are a few misconceptions regarding who's entitled to take stress leave from a job. An employee who is not permanent with the company may not be entitled to paid time off. A temporary employee does not automatically qualify for the same benefits as a permanent employee. The temporary employee's position does not have to be held out until the employee is well enough to return to work, unless company policy states otherwise.


Check with your state's labour laws to determine eligibility for whether that states's worker's compensation laws grant an employee medical benefits and wage-loss compensation for time off because of work-related stress. Also check your state's labour laws to see whether you have the right to take any accrued sick leave time and use it for the time off on stress leave. Complicated cases, too, may need the involvement of a labour law attorney.

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About the Author

Mona Johnson is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a degree in communications. She began writing in 2001 and producing literary works in 2003 for T.A.D.D. Writes Publications. Johnson has experience with writing articles and blogs geared towards facts, keywords, fashion and other subjects.

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