DOL Releases FMLA Guidance on Telemedicine and Serious Health Conditions

January 5, 2021

On December 29, 2020, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division released Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-8, which provides guidance to agency field staff on when telemedicine may be considered treatment under the FMLA.

As background, FMLA provides eligible employees of covered employers with unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for, among other things, a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job, or to care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.

A serious health condition is defined as an “illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves” either: 1) “inpatient care” such as an overnight stay in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care, or 2) “continuing treatment by a health care provider.” The regulations define treatment as an in-person visit to a healthcare provider. It does not include a letter, phone call, email or text message.

The division recognizes that during the COVID-19 pandemic telemedicine has been increasingly used by healthcare providers to deliver treatment to patients. In July 2020, the division issued FAQ #12 to its Frequently Asked Questions about the FMLA and Pandemic to address this issue. The FAQ provided that until December 31, 2020, telemedicine would meet the FMLA’s treatment standard if certain conditions were met. The current bulletin extends that provision until further notice that telemedicine will meet the FMLA’s treatment standard if the telemedicine visit satisfies all of the following:

  • Involves an examination, evaluation or treatment by a healthcare provider
  • Is permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities
  • Is generally performed by video conference

Employers should be aware of this guidance.

Field Assistance Bulletin 2020-8 »