Telehealth Visits Count as "In-Person" Visits for FMLA Purposes

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 5, 2021

Telehealth visits are deemed "in-person" visits with a health provider under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for determining if an employee has a serious health condition, according to new guidance released by the Department of Labor (DOL) at the end of December 2020. The guidance extends flexibility that was first announced during the COVID-19 pandemic in July and makes it permanent.

Telehealth (or telemedicine) involves face-to-face examinations or treatment of patients using remote video conference technology over computers or mobile devices. To qualify as an in-patient visit under the DOL guidance, a telemedicine visit must:

  • Include an examination, evaluation or treatment by a health care provider;
  • Be permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities; and
  • Generally, be performed by video conference.

Under the FMLA, a serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. One way that an employee may demonstrate having a serious health condition is to have an in-person visit with a health care provider within seven days following the first day of their incapacity.

However, COVID-19 restrictions have made it more difficult for employees to have in-person medical appointments. Instead, many medical offices have been using telemedicine during the pandemic to provide patients with examinations, evaluations and other healthcare services that would previously have been provided only in an office.