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Commerce's John Bryson Takes Medical Leave

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 13, 2012 9:44 AM

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson is taking an immediate medical leave of absence to focus on "resolving" health issues after two car crashes in California, Reuters reports.

Bryson, 68, was found unconscious behind the wheel after he allegedly crashed three times into two cars within a five-minute span in suburban Los Angeles on Saturday. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said Bryson suffered a seizure.

It's not clear how long Bryson's medical leave will last. But in general, federal law may protect a worker's job when he takes a medical leave of absence.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act grants workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a variety of reasons, including a medical leave of absence for a "serious health condition" like Commerce Secretary John Bryson's.

A "serious health condition" can be an illness, injury, impairment, or condition that requires hospital care or multiple treatments. An employee may be required to provide advance notice of his leave, and may have to submit documentation as well.

While an employee is out on medical leave, the employer must continue to maintain health coverage on the same terms. The employee must also be restored to his former job, or an equivalent one, upon return from leave.

Not all employers are bound by the FMLA, however. The FMLA covers government employers like the Commerce Department, but private employers must have at least 50 employees, among other requirements.

Also, not all employees are covered by the FMLA. Only those who've worked for an employer at least 12 months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the past year, are eligible.

In addition to the FMLA, state laws may also make paid medical leave available under certain circumstances, such as pregnancy. Check with your state, or consult a local employment attorney for questions about your specific situation.

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