The Americans with Disabilities Act is an important law which covers a number of situations. Basically, the ADA protects people with permanent or long-term disabilities from unfair discrimination. However, not all serious disabilities are long-term or permanent. Conditions may come and go which make it almost impossible to function at work. Situations like these benefit no one.
So, Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act to fill in this gap. Up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave is available in a number of everyday situations, as outlined below.
Birthing and Bonding Time, Biological Child
Many companies offer paid maternity and paternity leave. If they are grossly uneven (maybe a few weeks for men and a few months for women), these policies may run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Unpaid FMLA leave is not just for physical recovery in these cases. This leave is also available to bond with the new child.
If both parties agree, this leave time may be part of a flexible scheduling package. That could be more days off or fewer hours each day. In all other cases, the leave time must be a solid block.
“Birthing” and Bonding Time, Adopted Child
New parents often need additional time to bond with adopted children, as well. After all, the needs of both parent and child are exactly the same in both adoptions and biological birth situations.
There is obviously no physical childbearing involved in adoption cases. However, there are usually court appearances, social services interviews, and other such activities. FMLA leave is available for these things, provided they are directly related to the adoption process.
Serious Health Condition
This phrase is poorly defined, and that is intentional. Congress clearly intended that FMLA applies to a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental conditions. The only guidelines are:
- A complete inability to work, or
- Inability to perform one or more essential job functions.
The extent of impairment is often an issue. Employers have the right to ask for supporting documentation from a physician. If the dispute continues, employers often lose the fight, given the rather subjective definition in the law.
Care for a Sick Loved One
Another difference between the ADA and the FMLA is that the former only applies to the employee. The FMLA, on the other hand, also applies to the employee’s “family.” In this context, family includes:
- Parent, and
Sometimes, a legal relationship is sufficient. The parent-child relationship could be adoptive or could be biological. However, parents or children “in law” do not qualify as family members for FMLA purposes.
The same analysis applies regarding the nature of the serious condition. FMLA also applies to things like transporting the loved one to and from the doctor.
Child care is the most common example of items in this category. The list also includes attending military ceremonies and spending time with a loved one on R&R leave.
Reach Out to a Tenacious Lawyer
The FMLA protects workers in numerous situations. For a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. Our main office is conveniently located in downtown Chicago.