Medical Leave & Reasonable Accommodation for Employees
There comes a time in every employee’s life when they will need to take some personal time for their health or to care for a loved one. When this happens, there are California state and federal laws in place to ensure that when they are able to return to work their job is still there for them. There are also laws that ensure employees have access to reasonable accommodations when they are needed to assist the employee with carrying out their duties. At Attorneys for Employees (AFE), our Los Angeles FMLA attorneys work with our clients to hold employers accountable when their rights to reasonable accommodation and medical leave are violated.
The Intersection of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
When you speak with a Los Angeles FMLA attorney at AFE about your legal rights, your lawyer may also discuss your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA entitles employees to reasonable accommodations for qualifying disabilities. While reasonable accommodations can include physical accommodations like modified workplaces, they can also include other types of job-related accommodations like modified work schedules and extended leave.
Not all “serious health conditions” under the FMLA qualify as “disabilities” under the ADA. But many do. As a result, if you exhaust your FMLA leave and need additional time off, our attorneys may be able to help you obtain additional leave under the ADA.
Additionally, while the FMLA applies to employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, the ADA applies to employers that have a workforce of 15 or more employees. So, even if you aren’t eligible for FMLA leave, you may still qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. A Los Angeles FMLA attorney at AFE can help you explore all of your options and help ensure that you are taking advantage of all of the employment-related benefits available to you.
Eligibility for FMLA and CFRA Leave
As an employee in Los Angeles, you may also be protected under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Similar to the FMLA, the CFRA entitles eligible employees to job-protected leave for qualifying medical conditions. This includes employees’ own medical conditions as well as medical conditions experienced by family members who need care and support. The CFRA applies to California employers with five or more employees—so its reach is broader than both the FMLA and the ADA.
About The Family Medical Leave Act in Los Angeles
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal statute that entitles eligible employees to unpaid leave from their job for a specified amount of time with the assurance that their job will remain protected. During this time, there can be no changes to their group health insurance coverage. While the FMLA offers job protection to eligible employees, there are many employees who will not qualify under its terms as it only applies under the following conditions:
- The employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the employee’s workplace
- The employee has been with the employer for a minimum of 12 months
- The employee has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the year prior to the time the leave is needed
About the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows eligible employees to take up to a total of 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave within a 12-month period. While on leave, the employee’s job is protected, and the employee can maintain any existing employer-paid health benefits while the employee was working full-time. Employees can be eligible for CFRA time for the birth of a child, for necessary care provided to an immediate family member, or due to extreme health concerns.
Reasonable Workplace Accommodations, The Americans with Disabilities Act & The California Fair Employment and Housing Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) consists of federal laws designed to protect disabled persons from discrimination by employers, potential employers, public accommodations, transportation, telecommunication agencies, and state and federal government agencies. A pertinent part of the ADA addresses reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Essentially, this part of the ADA mandates that an employer provide an employee, or a potential employee during the interview process, with any reasonable accommodations they may need. “Reasonable” is interpreted to mean that the accommodations will not place any undue burden on the employer.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also protects against discrimination, including both physical and mental disabilities.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
Some examples of reasonable accommodations an employer would be expected to make can include:
- A flexible work schedule
- Reserved parking
- Improved accessibility to workspaces
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids
- Allowing assistive animals in the workplace
- Restructuring of a job to eliminate any non-essential functions
- Providing accessibility to restrooms, breakrooms, training areas, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions About FMLA
FMLA is a complex subject and answers can be hard to come by. If you have questions about your rights under FMLA, our Los Angeles FMLA attorneys can get you the answers you need.
Can FMLA be denied in California?
Your FMLA request cannot be denied in California except for one of three reasons:
- Your employer is not covered by FMLA. Remember, FMLA applies only to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. However, you may qualify for leave under CFRA, which applies to employers with as few as 5 employees.
- You are not eligible for FMLA. Only employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months for a minimum of 1,250 hours are eligible for leave under FMLA. Your employer can deny your leave request if you are not eligible. We also note that the eligibility requirements under CFRA are the same as FMLA.
- You have requested leave for a purpose not covered by FMLA. Generally speaking, FMLA allows employees to take unpaid leave in order to recover from a medical condition or care for a sick family member. That said, both FMLA and CFRA offer expansive protections for employees, and yet employers often interpret them narrowly (and incorrectly). If your claim has been denied on this basis, you may want to discuss your case with a Los Angeles FMLA attorney.
How does FMLA work in LA?
FMLA is a federal statute, which means that you are entitled to the same rights under the law as anywhere else in the country. And while the procedures are more or less the same, the details can vary from employer to employer. If you think you may need to request leave under FMLA, you will need to take the following steps:
- Determine whether you are eligible for leave under FMLA.
- Give your employer advance notice – at least 30 days’ notice if your need is foreseeable, otherwise as soon as possible.
- Request the appropriate forms from your employer. If your employer does not have specific forms, you can use the FMLA forms available from the Department of Labor.
- Complete the forms and submit them to your employer. Once your forms have been submitted, your employer should inform you that your request has been approved or denied within 5 days.
- While on leave, you should communicate with your employer about your status, when you anticipate that you will be able to return to work, and any changes.
- You can return to work once your situation has improved or you have exhausted your leave. Under FMLA, you are entitled to return to the same or equivalent position.
But, while this is how the FMLA is supposed to work, this doesn’t always happen. Many employers don’t have a clear understanding of their employees’ rights under the FMLA, and some simply choose to ignore them. If your employer improperly denies you leave or refuses to reinstate you in a similar position when you return to work, you will want to speak with an experienced Los Angeles FMLA attorney about your legal rights.
How a Los Angeles FMLA Attorney at AFE Can Help You
If you hire a Los Angeles FMLA attorney, what can your attorney do to help? Here are just some of the ways our attorneys help our clients:
- Determining if You Are Eligible for Job-Protected Leave Under the FMLA and CFRA – If you have questions about filing for FMLA or CFRA leave, we can explain everything you need to know. We can assess your eligibility under both statutes, and then we can help you make informed decisions about your next steps.
- Determining if You Qualify for Leave or Another Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA – We can also determine if you qualify for leave or another reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The ADA applies in circumstances not covered by the FMLA and CFRA, so asserting your ADA rights can be key in some cases.
- Helping You Assert Your Legal Rights at Work – Regardless of the protections that apply, we can help you assert your legal rights at work. We can help you take all of the steps necessary to secure leave under the FMLA, CFRA and/or ADA, and we can deal with any issues on your behalf.
- Dealing with Issues During or After Your Job–Protected Leave – We can also deal with any issues that arise during or after your job-protected leave. Hopefully, you won’t encounter any issues, but if you do, our attorneys will be here to help.
- Helping You Take Legal Action for Retaliation and Other Violations of Your Legal Rights – If your employer attempts to retaliate against you or otherwise attempts to violate your legal rights, we can help you in this situation as well. We handle all types of employment-related matters on behalf of employees in Los Angeles.
Can you be fired if FMLA is denied?
You can be fired after your request for FMLA leave has been denied. The question is whether you were fired in retaliation for your request or for unrelated reasons. If your firing was retaliatory, you may have a wrongful termination claim and should contact a Los Angeles FMLA attorney as soon as possible.
Can you be fired while on FMLA in California?
The fundamental intention behind FMLA is to protect the jobs of employees who need to take family-related or medical leave. It is therefore illegal to terminate an employee for taking leave under FMLA.
That said, this protection is not absolute. You can be fired for misconduct that would warrant termination or other non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reasons. You can also be considered for layoff, so long as your leave status is not a factor in the decision.
Regardless, you may have a wrongful termination claim if you were fired while on FMLA. A Los Angeles FMLA attorney can review your case and help you understand your options.
Can you go on vacation while on FMLA?
This is a tricky question that does not have a clear answer. It is important to remember that FMLA entitles employees to take leave for their own medical needs or to care for a loved one. While your employer cannot control your movements while on leave, going on vacation could raise a great deal of suspicion if your employer were to find out and prompt an HR investigation. This is especially the case if a prior vacation request was previously denied.
The circumstances surrounding your vacation may also make a difference. Taking a long weekend away to recharge from taking care of a sick parent may be perfectly acceptable, but a week-long cruise may be problematic. Your employer’s policies may also play a role.
Ultimately, we recommend that you reach out to a Los Angeles FMLA attorney if you are on or will be on FMLA before you buy your plane tickets.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that entitles eligible employees to job-protected leave for qualifying medical conditions and other reasons. These include serious health conditions that make employees unable to work, childbirth, adopting or fostering a child, caring for family members with serious health conditions, and reasons related to family members’ military service, among others. If you need to take time off from work for one of these reasons, you should speak with a Los Angeles FMLA attorney about your next steps.
Who is eligible for FMLA leave?
To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must work for an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and meet both of the following eligibility criteria:
- You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and,
- You have at least 1,250 hours of service with your employer during these 12 months.
If you are eligible and you are seeking leave for a qualifying medical condition or other reason authorized under the statute, then you should be able to take job-protected leave—provided that you assert your FMLA rights effectively.
What medical reasons qualify for FMLA leave?
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take job-protected leave for “serious health conditions.” A serious health condition is one that “makes [an] employee unable to perform the functions of their job.” There is not a list of qualifying medical conditions under the FMLA. Instead, employees must work with their doctors to demonstrate that their conditions entitle them to job-protected leave.
What should I do if I believe my employer has violated my rights under the FMLA?
If you believe your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA, you should consult with a Los Angeles FMLA attorney promptly. Unfortunately, FMLA violations are not uncommon. An experienced attorney will be able to evaluate your options and help you make informed decisions about what to do next.
What are the benefits of working with a Los Angeles family and medical leave attorney?
When you work with an experienced Los Angeles family and medical leave attorney, you can feel confident that you are making the right decisions for you and your family. You can also hold your employer accountable for FMLA violations, and if you are entitled to financial compensation or other remedies, you can rely on your attorney to fight for the remedies you deserve.
Examples of Common FMLA and CFRA Violations
The purpose of FMLA and CFRA is to protect employees’ jobs while they are on medical or family leave. It is therefore against the law to take any adverse action against an employee for using or requesting leave under FMLA or CFRA. To help you identify potential violations, here are some examples:
- Elizabeth has been out on maternity leave following the birth of her child. When she returns to work, she notices that she is being scheduled for fewer shifts than before she went on leave.
- Ray was out on leave to help his wife get through chemotherapy. When he returns to work, he is informed that he has been reassigned to a smaller branch. Generally speaking, employees at that branch have far fewer opportunities for advancement.
- Maria submits a request for FMLA leave and is subsequently terminated before her request is approved or denied. Her employer claims that it was for underperformance, but she has received no prior negative evaluations or feedback.
- Juan was out on leave to care for his elderly father who had fallen and broken his hip. Shortly after he returns to work, he is terminated when his boss informs him that they don’t have enough work for him. While he was on leave, however, his employer hired someone else to do the same job who remains with the company after Juan is terminated.
- Kimberly was on leave to help her partner recover from surgery. When she returns, she notices that her pay rate has been reduced with no explanation.
In each of these cases, there is a good chance that the employee has been either terminated or discriminated against as a result of requesting or taking FMLA or CFRA leave.
Discover Your Options with a Los Angeles FMLA Attorney
The laws regarding medical leave and reasonable accommodations can be confusing and many employers count on their employees being ignorant of what their rights are. At AFE, we focus our practice on helping employees protect themselves and their families when they need it most. To find out more about how a Los Angeles FMLA attorney can help you, contact our firm via our intake form.