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Medical Leave-Related Laws
There is a potential problem when an employee needs medical leave and multiple laws apply.
- FMLA - applies to employers with 50 or more employees - up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees
- ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) - 15 or more employees - reasonable accommodation of disabilities can include medical leave - no set time limit
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act - 15 or more employees - reasonable accommodation of pregnancy and related conditions - no set time limit
- Workers' compensation - no employee limit - the law prohibits retaliation or discrimination against employees who file workers' compensation claims - no set time limit
Each law has different purposes and requirements:
- FMLA provides job protection for up to twelve weeks for certain family and medical events affecting the employee - some FMLA qualifying events may involve disabilities, pregnancies, and even work-related illnesses or injuries.
- ADA requires reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities - not all medical problems are ADA-protected disabilities, but some are.
- PDA requires reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth, and conditions related to those events - some pregnancies involve the FMLA and the ADA.
- Workers' compensation provides temporary income replacement for employees with job-related medical problems - most job injuries do not result in disabilities, but some do, and some will involve the FMLA as well.
Some conditions or events may involve multiple laws, depending upon the number of employees and type of condition or event involved.
As a general rule, if two or more leave-related laws apply to an employee, the employer should consider how much leave or other protection or benefit each applicable law would require for the employee, and then apply the outcome that would provide the greatest benefit to the employee.
As a way of maintaining an outside limit on the overall amount of absenteeism that might result from medical or family conditions, many companies adopt neutral absence control policies - courts will enforce such policies if the policy is evenly and consistently applied and allows for reasonable accommodation under the ADA. See the sample policy of the same name in the section of this book titled "The A to Z of Personnel Policies".
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