Many Illinois employers understand their obligations under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, problems often arise for those that do not appreciate how these two sets of laws interact. Though quite different, they do intersect in certain situations. Employers who fail to comply with requirements under both statutes, as they may pertain to one employee, may suffer the consequences. You should consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney about ADA and FMLA claims in Illinois, but it may be helpful to review some general information.
Overview FMLA and ADA
Generally, the FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the reasons designated by statute. Employers are required to continue the same health insurance coverage, and to protect the employee’s job for when he or she returns.
The protections offered by the ADA are based upon civil rights concepts that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. An employer must give equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities when making hiring decisions and managing workplace conditions. One key component of the ADA is the employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for a disabled worker, which means adjusting the job or work environment so that the employee can perform essential functions.
Interplay Between FMLA and ADA
There are many situations where these laws collide with respect to one employee, and employers must recognize where their obligations begin and end. The scenario is not uncommon: An employee exercises his or her rights under the FMLA by taking leave for a qualifying medical or family reason. That person exhausts all 12 weeks, as allowed by law. When the employee returns to work, the employer operates under the assumption that the obligation is fulfilled.
However, while the employer has complied with medical leave requirements, the employee may still qualify for protections under the ADA. The qualifying reason for taking leave under the FMLA may continue when the employee returns, so the employer must reasonably accommodate that worker.
In addition, there are leave requirements under both laws. An employer must protect a worker’s job when he or she takes leave under the ADA, a responsibility that may extend even beyond the 12 weeks allowed by the FMLA. If the employee claims rights by “piggybacking” ADA leave upon the FMLA allotment, you could be penalized for engaging in an adverse employment action.
Key Takeaways for Employers
Best practices for Illinois employers include:
- Do not assume that it will be “business as usual” when an employee returns from FMLA leave. Ensure reasonable accommodations for those workers that still qualify for ADA protections when they are back on the job.
- Do not assume that it is OK to hire a replacement when an employee takes more than 12 weeks of leave. Additional time may be available to that worker under the ADA.
- Document all interactions and efforts for reasonable accommodation. You must be able to show good faith in your attempts to comply with the law.
Talk to Chicago Employment Attorney About FMLA and ADA
If you are an Illinois employer seeking additional information on FMLA and ADA compliance, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We can schedule a consultation at our Chicago office to review your circumstances and help you understand your responsibilities.