Navigating the Complicated World of Absence Management and Leave Laws



What is FMLA, and who qualifies?

Enacted in 1993, The Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA has impacted the American workforce by allowing eligible employees of covered employers to take job-protected, unpaid leave for 12 or 26 workweeks in a leave year for a variety of reasons. As an employer, it's vital to know the specifics of what and who qualifies for FMLA, as the labor law has tremendous impacts on organizations. It can be difficult to navigate the complexities of the program, but it's helpful to begin by learning the basics of FMLA qualifications (listed below). For a deep dive into the intricacies of FMLA, we recommend checking out the recorded webinar at the top of the page.  

  • Covered employers are qualified as:
    • Private employers with 50 or more employees within 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. 
    • Public agencies, without regard to the number of employees employed.
    • Public and private elementary and secondary schools without regard to the number of employees employed.
  • Employees that are eligible for FMLA leave must fulfill these qualifications:
    • Work within 75 miles of 50+ colleagues of their company (telecommuters and remote workers are counted by the location to which they report).
    • Work for an employer a minimum of 12 months.
    • Have worked 1,250 hours in the year preceding the leave.

An Employee that reaches these qualifications can receive the benefits of FMLA  if they, themselves, have a serious health condition (an illness, injury impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider). An employee can also qualify if they have a child, spouse or parent  that possesses a serious health condition or when caring for a newborn or newly placed child of adoption or foster care. Additionally, employees can become qualified to care for an injured service member. There is also an opportunity to qualify if a family member is called for active military duty and they need to step away from work as a result of that call-up. This is termed qualifying exigency.

Under FMLA regulations, three types of leave are possible for employees. These leaves include:

  • Continuous - An employee out of work on a full-time basis for a specified period of time

  • Reduced schedule - An employee needs to work a reduced schedule for period of time

  • Intermittent - An employee needs to be out on an intermittent basis (intermittent leave can be taken on a periodic or unpredictable basis)

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA)?

Simply put. the ADA is an anti-discrimination law that predominately hinges on discussion, good faith interactions and dialogue. The ADA passed in 1990 and was then amended in 2008 (known as the ADAAA).

How does the ADAAA impact employers and employees?

The ADAAA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and is designed to protect against discrimination for individuals with disabilities, individuals with a “record” of disability, individuals “regarded as” being disabled and individuals associated with a disabled person. An ADAAA disability is qualified as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The ADAAA requires employers to come to the table with an employee requesting an accommodation for their disability and engage in a "good faith interactive" dialogue or process. The interactive process mandates that an employer must:

  • Engage in a good faith dialogue
  • Nurture a back and forth communication
  • Show an open mind

The employer must then evaluate whether or not a reasonable accommodation can help the employee perform the essential functions of the job. Employers should grant accommodations unless those accommodations will cause undue hardship to an employer or other employees, relieve an employee of performing "essential job function," or the accommodation will pose a direct threat to the safety of the employee or others.


We'd like to thank our guest panelist, Abigail O'Connell, for sharing her insights on Absence Management and Leave Laws. See below to reach Abigail for counsel:

Abigail O'Connell


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