The ADA, FMLA/Leave of Absence and The Rehab Act: An Update

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave every year for various family and medical reasons. In particular, an eligible employee can take a leave if he/she is unable to work because of a serious health condition. On the other hand, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against qualified disabled individuals and requires employers to provide accommodations that allow these individuals to perform the essential functions of their jobs. A leave of absence may be a reasonable accommodation if taking the leave would allow the disabled employee to return to work and perform the essential functions of the job. During this session we will discuss employer obligations to provide extended leaves of absence or other accommodations to employees who are on a leave of absence and have a disability protected by the ADA. Because the term reasonable accommodation includes accommodations that enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job, various courts have agreed with the EEOC that unpaid medical leave, for a finite period, is a reasonable accommodation if it does not pose an undue hardship. The session will explain the manner in which the EEOC and courts have evaluated extended leaves of absence as well as claims of undue hardship. We will examine issues of overlap when it comes to FMLA and ADA accommodations, discuss recent cases that have emerged and how these might affect upcoming policy/guidance. During this session we will discuss: Differences between someone who is deemed to have a "serious health condition" versus someone who is a "qualified individual with a disability" and how this affects ADA coverage How and when medical inquiries can be used to determine coverage under the ADA and FMLA Situations where both ADA and FMLA apply

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Martin Ebel, Deputy Director, Houston District Office of the EEOC