Does FMLA cover hospital visit? Need answer fast

My mom was hospitalized last night. Can I use FMLA time to visit her? I qualify for FMLA, having been employed full-time continuously at a large company for 4 years. But when I called our leave department, they said a hospital visit doesn’t necessarily constitute “caring for her.”

My concern is that visiting hours end at 8pm, and I get off work too late to make it. What are my options here?

You will have to fill out some forms and get a Dr. to complete a medical-certification form to be eligible for FMLA. If you are going to be caring for your mom for a while this might be worth looking into. For today I would try to use vacation or well time to see her and then talk to her Dr. and your employer about whether or not this would be eligible. (Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for this time off, BTW.)

This answers some questions about FMLA.

My complete wag is that you will need to call off in the immediate short term, and then deal with the issues as they arise.
My employee handbook says “If the leave is unanticipated, the employee should follow departmental policies for calling off.” While yours may be completely different, I am betting it’s much the same.
As a boss, I would need to consult with HR and deal with coding your absence as FMLA (approved or unapproved) over a period of days or weeks.
A parent’s hospitalization qualifies as an emergency and don’t feel bad about calling off, in my book.

Just to follow up, some of the case law I’ve read had different results in different states. Sometimes they’ve ruled that a hospital visit provides psychological ease to the ill family member, and it’s excusable under FMLA. Sometimes they’ve ruled that this isn’t sufficient, because you aren’t “caring for” the person–the reasoning being that the hospital staff are already caring for them. I called my employer’s leave department, and they’ll only grant a FMLA excuse if a physician will say that my presence was medically necessary. It wouldn’t be, so I guess I’m fucked in that regard. Regardless, I know they will cover transporting her home from the hospital (which I will eventually have to do). And my company pays for FMLA concurrent with accrued PTO time, so there’s that at least.

She’s not terminal or dying, it’s a kidney infection. If it were extraordinarily serious, I’d have gone regardless.

… best to your mom.