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Understanding your employees’ rights to medical leave

| Apr 20, 2020 | Employment Law

As an employer, there are many laws you need to understand and abide by. When it comes to your employees’ rights to take time off for health-related reasons, there are a couple key laws that you should be familiar with. Here is an overview of these laws and how they work:

Family and Medical Leave Act

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires certain employers to give eligible employees up to three months of unpaid leave in a one-year period for specific family and health reasons, including:

  • Having a baby
  • Adopting or fostering a child
  • Being unable to work due to a serious health condition
  • Caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
  • Other qualifying circumstances in which an immediate family member is called to active military duty

When your employee is dealing with a serious medical issue, they can take this leave intermittently or by reducing their hours for a period of time. They can only take this leave intermittently for a birth or adoption if you give them approval.

During your employee’s leave, you must continue their health insurance benefits. And when they return, you should restore them to their old position – or give them a similar position.

Does the FMLA apply to my organization?

The FMLA applies to all schools, public agencies and most private employers that have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. If your organization falls into one of these categories, your employees are covered under the FMLA if they:

  • Worked for you for at least 1,250 hours during the year before their leave: Vacation time, sick leave and paid time off do not count towards this sum.
  • Worked for you for at least 12 months: These 12 months do not have to be consecutive.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Along with the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their disabilities. This protects workers with physical and mental impairments during the hiring, promoting and firing process.

While the ADA does not explicitly require you to give workers with medical issues unpaid time off, it does require you to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities. An accommodation could include altering your employee’s work schedule.

In some cases, reasonable accommodation may take the form of additional leave – over and above the leave provided through the FMLA. For instance, if an employee’s injury or serious health condition results in permanent mental or physical disability that puts significant constraints on the employee’s life, extra ADA leave may be deemed a reasonable accommodation.

Does the ADA apply to my organization?

The ADA applies to all employers with at least 15 employees. It also applies to joint-labor management committees, employment agencies and labor unions regardless of their number of workers.

As a responsible employer, it’s crucial that you abide by the law. If one of your employees requests time off for a medical or family-related reason, make sure you approach their request with these laws in mind.