This series, beginning here, explores the top ten ways that employers deny employees their medical leave rights.
#2 – Failing to Consider All Medical Leave Rights Together
Each of the leave laws that protect California employees operate independently of each other. This means that “[a]n employer must therefore provide leave under whichever statutory provision provides the greater rights to employees.” (29 C.F.R. § 825.702(a).) For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) allows an employer to place an employee returning from a covered leave in an “equivalent” position. (29 C.F.R. § 825.215.) In contrast, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), an employee who is granted leave as a reasonable accommodation is “entitled to return to his/her same position unless the employer demonstrates that holding open the position would impose an undue hardship.” (See EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA (Oct. 17, 2002), at Q&A 18.) Therefore, if an employee on a medical leave is covered by FMLA, the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), the ADA, and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), the employer would need to reinstate her to her original position following a return from a medical leave, absent the employer demonstrating undue hardship.
The FMLA regulations, at 29 C.F.R. section 825.702, provide several additional examples of the interplay between the ADA and FMLA, including the following:
A reasonable accommodation under the ADA might be accomplished by providing an individual with a disability with a part-time job with no health benefits, assuming the employer did not ordinarily provide health insurance for part-time employees. However, FMLA would permit an employee to work a reduced leave schedule until the equivalent of 12 workweeks of leave were used, with group health benefits maintained during this period. FMLA permits an employer to temporarily transfer an employee who is taking leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule for planned medical treatment to an alternative position, whereas the ADA allows an accommodation of reassignment to an equivalent, vacant position only if the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the employee’s present position and an accommodation is not possible in the employee’s present position, or an accommodation in the employee’s present position would cause an undue hardship.
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To read about the next way that employers deny employees their leave rights, click here: #3 – Denying Pregnant Women Their Full Leave Time.
More on the interactions between the leaves laws can be found here.
This series was adapted from Ramit Mizrahi’s article in The Advocate Magazine, “Ten Ways That Employers Deny Employees Their Medical Leave Rights (June 2017).
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