The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected medical leave for specified personal or family medical reasons. Many workers use FMLA leave in Atlanta, Georgia to care for a newborn child, and return to work in 12 weeks or less. The federal protection, however, applies to a wide variety of personal and family medical reasons.
What happens when an eligible worker takes leave, but requires slightly longer than 12 weeks to recover from a serious medical condition?
That was the issue in a recently settled disability bias lawsuit in the West South Central part of the country. The federal disability discrimination lawsuit was brought on behalf of a woman who suffered a stroke in early 2011. She took medical leave after the stroke. The HR director of the company, a national company that deals with real estate issues, including short sales, sent a letter during the worker's medical leave seeking information about when the worker would return without medical restrictions.
The woman responded to the letter promptly, but her doctor said that she needed a short extension to her medical leave before she could return without restriction, according to the employment discrimination suit. The company reportedly refused to grant any extension to the woman's medical leave and fired the worker.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, unless such accommodations would cause an undue hardship upon the employer. What constitutes an undue hardship involves complex analysis. But, in the lawsuit against REDC Default Solutions, the woman says that she only needed a modest extension of her medical leave.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the company's refusal to grant the short extensive violated the reasonable accommodations provision of the ADA. The parties recently settled the federal employment discrimination lawsuit for monetary damages and other relief. Each case involves individual facts, but the story highlights how employment law issues may involve more than one state or federal law.
Commentators occasionally discuss potential gaps in worker's rights and employment discrimination laws. However, it is also important to recognize that worker's rights laws may, at times, overlap. It is important for workers who suffer discriminatory practices in the workplace to consider seeking legal advice to protect their rights.
Source: EEOC, "REDC Default Solutions to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit," Feb. 21, 2013