Medical Leave and Employment Disability Discrimination in 2023: Updates on Scheduling & Duties
Medical Leave and Employment Disability Discrimination in 2023: Changing Schedules and Job Duties under Updated Rules
Medical leave legislation can be a lifeline for workers with serious health issues. These laws are very strong and are enacted with the health and family life of workers in mind.
Taking temporary or permanent leave time from work may be necessary due to a health condition, a family responsibility, or a combination of these two factors. As workers grow their families and get older, caretaking responsibilities can intersect with health problems, whether physical or mental in origin.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) governs leaves of absences at the federal law for certain medical or family support reasons, with continuity of health insurance coverage from the employer.
Up to 12 workweeks of leave may be taken by a qualifying employee in each 12-month period because of a serious medical condition that makes performance of employee functions unduly difficult. Inpatient admission to hospital is not required to be “serious”; a medical condition may also involve ongoing treatment for illness, injury, disability, or other condition.
Leave should be classified and granted without excessive delay and the employee should receive notice from the employer of its decision. An employer may ask for a medical certification for the condition causing the leave to be completed by a health care provider. This certification may cover the seriousness of the condition and the length of the needed leave.
The FMLA is not the only source of medical leave, however. Just this year, the FMLA Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor clarified that an employer must give the most favorable leave available to the employee when multiple state or federal laws refer to different periods of leave in a similar situation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is another source of partial or full-time leaves of absence. One way in which a disabled worker may exercise their ADA rights is by taking leave of part of a full-time job so as to become a part-time employee. This might or might not involve the loss of full-time health benefits under the ADA, but the FMLA might be a way to continue group health insurance coverage while pursuing a part-time schedule until the 12 weeks of leave is used up by the hours reduction on the “leave schedule.”
The New York Human Rights Law gives disabled employees a right not to be discriminated against compared to workers who do not need reasonable accommodation. If the accommodation allows them to perform the duties of the job in a reasonable manner, they should not be fired and replaced with a non-disabled worker. The definition of “disability” in New York is broader than under federal law in that it covers many conditions that may not qualify under the ADA.
If an employee’s reduced hours do not consume their full 12 weeks of FMLA leave per year, they may continue this reduced hour FMLA schedule as long as they need to. The 12 weeks may be translated to 480 hours for this purpose.
New York family and medical leave law is more generous than the federal FMLA because New York leave is frequently with pay. For family leave, New Yorkers may be able to take paid time off to care for a newborn or newly-adopted child, an ill parent, or even an ill sibling or other family member. In addition, New York’s medical leave may allow a worker to receive up to $170 per week, but he or she may have to rely on the federal law for the right to keep their job.
Paid sick leave may be available whether or not a worker lives in New York. It often provides the right to keep one’s job and applies to family injury or illness, not just the worker’s own. Many companies calculate it as hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, or sometimes a year’s worth of paid sick leave up front rather than as a 1/30 percentage of the 30-hour weeks worked.
The ADA and its New York counterpart provide more options other than reduced-hours leave. Changed jobs duties can accommodate a disability, whether physical or mental in nature, if it affects a sufficient number of major life activities. A failure to accommodate with changed duties may bring about constructive termination, mental distress, and lost pay and benefits.
It is important to know your rights when it comes to employment disability discrimination or failures to offer reasonable accommodations of life-changing conditions. A free consultation can help you understand your rights and take action to protect them, including by contacting human resources or the government.
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