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Gender reassignment surgery and the FMLA

Some transgender peopleundergo gender reassignment surgery to complete their transition. Though this type of surgery requires hospitalization, it is unclear whether a transgender worker can take legally protected time off from work to undergo the procedure. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees in Florida and around the country can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year in order to address serious health conditions.

Transgender employment rights and discrimination issues are being discussed more lately, but many of the discussions are still theoretical. So far, there have not been any employment discrimination claims filed over gender reassignment surgery and the FMLA. If a transgender worker was denied FMLA leave for gender reassignment surgery, the worker could raise the issue in court. How a judge would rule in that type of case is still unknown.

Some people in the legal community believe that a transgender worker could take FMLA leave for gender reassignment surgery as long as the worker’s doctor says that the surgery is necessary to alleviate the worker’s depression. Because depression is considered a serious health condition, its treatment is protected under the FMLA. Other people have argued that gender reassignment surgery is a cosmetic procedure that is not protected under the FMLA.

Though there is disagreement about how federal employment laws apply to transgender workers, many transgender workers have filed employment discrimination claims with the EEOC. However, FMLA claims are handled by the U.S. Department of Labor, and people who feel that they have been unfairly denied leave may want to have FMLA discrimination law firm assistance.


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