When the FMLA and the ADA Collide: What You Need to Know
Some workers may be eligible for additional medical leave
Suppose you have a medical issue and you need to take some time off. You
apply for leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and are
granted 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
However, in your 12th week of recovery, your doctor gives you some bad news: you’re going
to need at least two more weeks of recovery time.
That worries you. You know that the FMLA only safeguards your job for 12
weeks. So what now?
The good news is that federal law may provide some protection for cases
like this. Let’s look at what happens when the FMLA intersects with
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Leave as an accommodation
Yes, it’s true that the FMLA only requires employers to hold your
position for 12 weeks. However, the ADA can change that scenario.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that extended
leave can be considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA as long
as it doesn’t pose a business hardship.
That means that an employee who is covered by the ADA may be entitled to
take leave above and beyond the 12 weeks provided by the FMLA.
Keep in mind that this does not usually translate to open-ended or prolonged
leave. Rather, additional leave may be allowed if the person is expected
to return within a defined and reasonable time frame.
Do you qualify for ADA coverage?
Of course, in order to be eligible for the additional leave, you need to
qualify for coverage under the ADA. There is no set list of conditions
that are or are not covered under the ADA. Instead, coverage is determined
on a case-by-case basis.
For example, one person with diabetes may not qualify for ADA coverage,
while another person with diabetes may suffer from significant impairments.
How do you know if you’re qualified for coverage under the ADA? Consider
these three criteria:
- Are you qualified to do the job? That is, do you have the appropriate education,
experience, and professional licenses to perform the tasks that are required
in a given position?
- Are you suffering from a physical or mental impairment that substantially
limits a life activity? That may include any condition that makes it difficult
for you to see, hear, walk, speak, breathe, perform manual tasks, care
for yourself, learn, or work.
- Can you perform the essential functions of the job, with or without accommodation?
To answer this question, you’ll need to look at the main functions
of the job – those duties that make up the core of the position.
Consider if you’re able to accomplish those duties on your own.
If the answer is no, consider whether you would be able to do so if you
were given assistance (such as special tools or equipment), or if your
job were modified in some way (e.g., a schedule change or relocation to
a different area).
What about temporary disabilities?
It’s also important to know that the ADA was expanded several years
ago to cover a wider range of conditions. In some instances, that may
include temporary disabilities.
For example, a person recovering from shoulder or heart surgery may be
considered temporarily disabled during his or her recuperation period.
People suffering from non-chronic illnesses (e.g., the flu), or minor injuries
such as sprains generally do not qualify for ADA coverage.
Call us for a consultation
Because ADA issues are so dependent on individual circumstances, it’s
a good idea to seek legal advice if you believe that your rights have
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.