Navigating the Overlap Between the ADA and the FMLA

When an employee becomes sick, has a disability, or must take leave to support their family, they may be entitled to legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or both, in some situations. However, determining which laws apply to an employee’s circumstances can often be complicated, and missteps can be costly for employers, resulting in expensive penalties, fines, and legal fees.

While the ADA and FMLA support employees with physical or mental health conditions, they have different requirements. Employers must evaluate them carefully to correctly determine which legal protections extend to an employee’s situation. This article outlines the ADA and the FMLA and explores the intersection of these laws to help employers navigate difficult compliance situations.

Overview of the FMLA

The FMLA is a federal law that provides eligible employees of covered employers with unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. A private-sector employer is considered a covered employer under the FMLA if they employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. In general, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave each year for FMLA-qualifying reasons, including the treatment of a serious health condition.

Employee Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must:

  •  Be employed by a covered employer
  • Have worked for their employer for at least 12 months as of the date the leave is to start
  • Have accrued at least 1,250 hours of service for their employer during the 12-month period before the leave
  • Work at a location where their employer has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius

Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave

An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for any of the following FMLA- qualifying reasons:

    • The birth of a child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care, as well as the need to bond with the child within one year of birth or placement
    • The treatment of a serious health condition that results in the employee being unable to perform the essential functions of their job
    • The employee needs to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition
    • Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee has an immediate family member who is a military member on covered active duty or has been called to covered active duty status

Download the full PDF here – Navigating the Overlap Between the ADA and the FMLA

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