FMLA Accommodations in the Workplace
How Family and Medical Leave Act Accommodations Can Help Employers Allow You to Take the Time to Care for Yourself and Family.
Family and Medical Leave can help employees take the necessary time away from work to deal with their own medical issues or the medical issues of their immediate family. Employees can use this time to heal or help their family members recover during an injury or illness. It can also allow time to bond with a newborn child or newly adopted or fostered child. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers must accommodate this employee’s need for time off without threatening employment.
FMLA leave requires reasonable accommodations, including offering intermittent time off, finding other avenues to allow employees to work from home if the leave causes an undue hardship, and finding a comparable position for the employee to return to work. These accommodations can help if you cannot afford to hold their exact position open.
Is FMLA Leave a Reasonable Accommodation?
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides an essential accommodation for employees who are ill, pregnant, adopting or fostering a child, or have family members who are sick. Under the law, employees can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member if they meet the following requirements:
- An employer employs 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius.
- An employee has worked for the company for at least 12 months prior to the leave.
- An employee has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave.
Employees may use this leave for any of the following reasons:
- To bond with a newborn baby
- To bond with an adopted or fostered child
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, parent, or child) with a serious health condition or injury.
- To care for your own serious medical condition or injury
FMLA accommodations allow you to care for yourself or your family and ensure you will have your job or an equivalent position with the same pay when you return. Furthermore, your insurance benefits will continue as long as you pay your employer’s rate to your employer while out on leave.
Can an Employer Deny You FMLA Leave?
As a qualified employee, you have a right to take FMLA leave if needed unless the leave causes an undue hardship. An undue hardship occurs when your employer experiences excessive costs or significant difficulty because you need an extended leave from your position. Undue hardships are determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the following:
- Nature of the accommodation
- Cost of the accommodation
- Size of the business
- Resources of the business
- Nature of the business
- Business structure
An employer may deny your FMLA leave if it causes them an undue hardship. For example, if you are the only person at your job that can do what you do, your employer may claim that giving you leave may cause an undue hardship, especially if they stand to lose money if you cannot do your job.
Should Your Employer Keep Your Position Open to Accommodate Your FMLA Leave?
One of the accommodations offered under the FMLA is that your job remains available for you when you return to work. However, this option may not always be available for employers, especially if you are one of the only employees that can do your job within the company.
However, the FMLA prohibits employer retaliation against employees who use FMLA leave, even if they are the only employee who does their job. You cannot get fired from work because you used FMLA leave. Yet, you cannot get put into a position for which you are unqualified, leading to other ways you can get fired from work or quit.
While your employer does not need to keep your position open while you are on leave, they must provide you an equivalent position for which you are qualified. You must come back to work with the same income and benefits, as well as the same hours and shifts.
Should your employer deny you this accommodation, you may have a claim for wrongful termination and other employment law violations. Contact an experienced FMLA attorney to learn more about your rights under these circumstances.
Should Your Employer Provide Alternative Accommodations if FMLA Leave Causes an Undue Hardship?
If your employer cannot provide you with FMLA leave due to an undue hardship, he must find other ways to accommodate your needs. Some alternative FMLA accommodations may include the following ideas:
- Allowing you to work from home.
- Allowing you intermittent leave
- Hiring an intern to complete tasks while you are out on leave.
- Providing physical accommodations at the office to allow you to work with your injury or illness requiring leave.
- Offering time off to attend doctor’s appointments.
- Offering you the option to bring your newborn child or newly adopted or fostered child to work.
These accommodations are a few of the options your employer can offer to accommodate your needs when denying FMLA leave. However, if you believe your employer unjustly denies you FMLA leave or alternative accommodations, contact a qualified employment lawyer to help you stand up for your rights at work.
What Can You Do If You Exhaust Your FMLA Leave?
Unfortunately, you may find you still need leave from work to deal with illnesses or injuries after exhausting your 12 weeks of FMLA leave. The law may provide additional accommodations for this leave. If the leave relates to your covered disability, you may have the right to ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA).
Some of the possible accommodations may include the following:
- Working from home
- Working a part-time schedule
- Working a later shift
- Working an earlier shift
- Taking leave under temporary disability
Discuss your options for extended leave with your employer. However, if your employer refuses to offer extended FMLA accommodations, contact a qualified disability lawyer to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Can Employees File for Unemployment While Using FMLA Accommodations?
While on FMLA, you are still employed. Therefore, you cannot file for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are for employees who were terminated or laid off from their jobs. Employees who voluntarily quit their jobs or take extended leave are not eligible for unemployment in most circumstances.
However, if your employer retaliates against you with wrongful termination, you may qualify for unemployment coverage.
How Do Employees Receive Money While Using FMLA Leave?
FMLA leave is unpaid. However, that does not mean you cannot receive any money while using the leave.
First, you may use FMLA as needed. You may only need to use one day a week to help a family member with a severe medical condition. In that case, you may still work the remaining four days in the workweek and receive pay.
However, there are other ways to receive money while on FMLA leave. You may do any of the following:
Can an Employee Receive Temporary Disability Payments While on FMLA?
If you are using an FMLA accommodation for your medical needs, you may be able to apply for temporary disability benefits while on FMLA. Depending on your state, the temporary disability payments will pay a portion of your salary while dealing with your medical issues and concerns.
Does an Employee Need to Be Fully Recovered to Return to Work?
The ADAAA is clear that an employee taking FMLA leave or ADAAA leave cannot be forced to be fully recovered before returning to work. If you have recovered enough to do your job with accommodations, your employer must allow you to return. The employer is obligated to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADAAA to help you do your job.
Denying you the right to return to work before being fully recovered denies you the right to use ADAAA accommodations. Contact a disability attorney to help ensure you receive the accommodations you deserve.
Can an Employee Work from Home While Using FMLA Leave?
The FMLA does not prohibit employees from working from home while on leave. However, this FMLA accommodation must be agreed upon between the employer and employee. If you feel able to work from home while using FMLA leave, and your employer wants you to work from home, you may do so.
Does an Employee Have to Prove Medical Issues Requiring FMLA Accommodations?
When FMLA is needed to care for yourself or your immediate family members, an employer may ask for proof of the medical concerns. Such evidence may include:
- A doctor’s note
- An official diagnosis
- A birth certificate
- Other legal documentation.
What Are an Employee’s Rights If Denied FMLA Accommodations?
If your employer denies FMLA accommodations, you have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court. The statute of limitations to file your complaint is two years. However, if you think your employer willfully violated the law, you have three years to file your complaint.
If your employer denied you any additional accommodations as allowed by the FMLA or ADAAA, contact a qualified employment lawyer to determine your rights to file a complaint under the FMLA or ADAAA.
What Remedies Are Available for Employees Denied FMLA Accommodations?
If your employer denies you proper FMLA accommodations, the courts may award the following compensation:
- Reinstatement of employment
- Reimbursement of related medical expenses
- Attorney’s fees and costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
Speak with Our Experienced FMLA Lawyers for Your Free Consultation.
If you or your immediate family members are suffering from a serious medical condition, you have the right to worry and care for them. You should never have to fear you will get fired from work as a result.
If you were denied FMLA accommodations in the workplace, the compassionate FMLA attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help.
Did Your Employer Deny You the Use of Qualified FMLA Leave or Related Accommodations? Do You Want to Know More About Your Rights Under the Law? Call the Derek Smith Law Group at 800.807.2209 to Ask Your Questions.