FMLA, Attendance and Leaves of Absence
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. In addition to the FMLA and other federal laws (such as the ADA and USERRA), various state and municipal laws can also apply to leaves of absence. An employer must understand which laws do or do not apply to each leave of absence situation.
Navigating these laws as they apply to leaves of absence can be difficult for employers, especially because employee situations often vary. An employer can face a number of challenging issues, such as:
- Employees requesting leaves of absence as an ADA accommodation, when FMLA coverage has been exhausted or where the FMLA does not apply.
- Managing the needs of the business during protected absences by employees.
- Ensuring consistent enforcement of attendance policies and related disciplinary practices.
- Navigating the complicated regulatory requirements of the FMLA on a day-to-day basis.
Taft’s Employment attorneys take a pragmatic approach to attendance, FMLA and leave of absence situations. We present management with options, including a candid assessment of the legal and practical risks associated with each one. When employees request lengthy leaves of absence to address health-related issues, management sometimes acts too hastily in denying the leave. In other situations, companies allow months of leave in an attempt to appease the employee. We help employers find the right middle ground to serve the needs of their organizations while minimizing legal risk. The applicable legal standards also vary by jurisdiction, so employees in certain states may be held to different standards than those in other geographic areas.
Our attorneys help managers communicate effectively with employees — and their doctors — to keep the employees engaged in the process. Employees need to understand they cannot simply request months of leave and then go silent. By advising management at every step of the process, we ensure a process that will provide meaningful protections for the organization in the event that the accommodations requested are not reasonable. And when litigation is necessary to resolve disputes, we stand ready to take the case all the way to trial and appeal if a sensible resolution cannot be reached by negotiation.