Medical/Personal Leave of Absence Management
One of the most challenging tasks facing HR today is managing leave of absence requests from employees. There are so many leave statutes today under federal, state, and local laws that an HR manager could spend his or her entire day almost every day trying to keep up with the latest laws, regulations, and cases interpreting the laws and regulations. In addition to leave laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been expanded by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to require that employers give unpaid leaves of absence to disabled individuals. Because the ADA is so broad in the scope of conditions covered as “disabilities,” employees are able to ask for leaves of absence in far more situations. In addition, employees often are entitled to overlapping leaves of absence.
The FMLA contains its own series of pitfalls for the unknowing employer. The most difficult FMLA situations often arise when an employee seeks to take intermittent leave, which is leave on a sporadic basis as a condition flares up and employee does not feel well. There is no question that the purpose of the FMLA is a hugely beneficial one – to provide employees with the ability to take unpaid leaves of absence to deal with their own or a family member’s medical issues. However, the FMLA is ripe for abuse if not monitored correctly.
The EEOC also has taken the position that any employer who terminates an employee’s employment at the end of the 12 weeks of FMLA leave (where the leave was to treat for an employee’s serious medical condition) violates the ADA unless the employer gives an extra period of unpaid leave to see whether the employee can return to work. The EEOC has not provided guidance on the amount of additional leave an employer must give after the FMLA leave ends, so employers are left to guess as to how much additional leave needs to be given after FMLA. The interplay between the ADA, FMLA, and other forms of leave available to employees needs to be carefully managed.
HOW ELDI CAN HELP:
ELDI helps employers navigate specific situations and develop specific strategies to manage all types of leave (including FMLA, “disability leave,” domestic violence leave, etc.), reduce opportunities for abuse, investigate spurious claims, develop appropriate leave accommodations, navigate the EEOC’s unpaid leave requirements, and administer all types of leave and accommodation programs fairly. ELDI’s services to employers include:
- Counseling employers on the interplay between the FMLA and ADA
- Designing and implementing reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals in the workplace
- Compliance with state and local leave laws, including paid family leave and leave for victims of domestic violence which may overlap with the ADA
- Investigation and discipline of employees for abuse of accommodations, FMLA, and other leave programs
- Investigation and discipline of employees for abuse of leave rights
- Counseling employers on medical/personal leave reinstatement
- Counseling employers on issues arising during leave, alternate staffing arrangements, and termination of employees who do not return from leave