GETTING MORE THAN 12 WEEKS OF FMLA LEAVE
Despite the best efforts of the American education system to skip over the laws that will control the next 50 years of most students’ lives, generally high school graduates know that they are entitled to 12 weeks FMLA leave. But how many of us know that a sick employee may be entitled to more than 12 weeks off? Verizon’s legal staff didn’t and cost the corporation $20 million.
The EEOC has sued several employers that have so-called “no-fault” leave policies. These rules require that the employee be terminated or otherwise adversely impacted if he or she exceeds a certain number of leave days per year, FMLA included.
EEOC has taken the position that even when an employee has exhausted the FMLA entitlement, the employer must consider allowing more time off as a reasonable accommodation to those employees who qualify under the ADAAA or Rehabilitation Act as disabled. EEOC advice documents state, “If an employee with a disability needs additional unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, the employer must modify its “no-fault” leave policy to provide the employee with the additional leave, unless it can show that: (1) there is another effective accommodation that would enable the person to perform the essential functions of his/her position, or (2) granting additional leave would cause an undue hardship. Modifying workplace policies, including leave policies, is a form of reasonable accommodation.”
Who is disabled? We have included below the section of the law that describes the new broader definition. Start your analysis there and then look at this EEOC publication.
So, if one of your union members runs out of FMLA because of a personal physical or mental disability and needs more time off to deal with it or even a part-time schedule for a while, make a request that the agency give the employee more time off as a reasonable accommodation. It is obligated to do so unless it can prove that would create an undue hardship or it can offer an equally beneficial alternative, e.g. telework.
“SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF DISABILITY.
“As used in this Act:
“(1) DISABILITY.—The term ‘disability’ means, with respect to an individual—
“(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
“(B) a record of such an impairment; or
“(C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).
“(2) MAJOR LIFE ACTIVITIES.—
“(A) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
“(B) MAJOR BODILY FUNCTIONS.—For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
“(3) REGARDED AS HAVING SUCH AN IMPAIRMENT.—For purposes of paragraph (1)(C):
“(A) An individual meets the requirement of ‘being regarded as having such an impairment’ if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this Act because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
“(B) Paragraph (1)(C) shall not apply to impairments that are transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.
“(4) RULES OF CONSTRUCTION REGARDING THE DEFINITION OF DISABILITY.—The definition of ‘disability’ in paragraph (1) shall be construed in accordance with the following:
“(A) The definition of disability in this Act shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this Act, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this Act.
“(B) The term ‘substantially limits’ shall be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
“(C) An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.
“(D) An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
“(E)(i) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as—
“(I) medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;
“(II) use of assistive technology;
“(III) reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or
“(IV) learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
“(ii) The ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
“(iii) As used in this subparagraph—
“(I) the term ‘ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses’ means lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or eliminate refractive error; and
“(II) the term ‘low-vision devices’ means devices that magnify, enhance, or otherwise augment a visual image.”.