Original Program: 34th Annual North Carolina/South Carolina Labor & Employment Law Program, October 12-13, 2018
With strong bipartisan support in the early 1990s, Congress enacted, and Republican President George H. W. Bush and Democratic President Bill Clinton signed, two important laws impacting employees with disabling medical conditions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are distinct statutes that intersect in some instances when employees need leave from employment for their own health conditions or disabilities. In cases where both laws govern, an employer must provide leave under whichever statute provides the greater rights to the employee. Both the ADA and FMLA aim to protect workers with serious health conditions, while balancing the needs of their employers.
Like most laws, in practice they often fail to live up to their promise.
Prior to 2009, the FMLA was viewed as too employee friendly. The ADA, conversely, was viewed as too employer friendly. Congress amended the ADA in an effort to balance the Act. Comparatively, the Department of Labor issued amended regulations for the FMLA, attempting the same. After nearly 10 years, neither law is completely meeting all of the objectives of either constituency. What is certain, however, is that both laws when merged, have kicked off a “Leavolution”!
Employers who do not understand these two laws will face considerable challenges and liability. Employees, too, would be well served to learn more about how these laws protect them, but also how they impose on them obligations with which they must comply to maintain protection.
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