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When reasonable accommodation is time off, it’s OK to count it as FMLA leave

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees whose disabilities require reasonable accommodations in the form of breaks or a modified schedule don’t get to save their FMLA leave for later use. You are free to subtract the time off from any FMLA hours available.

Recent case: AT&T call center employee Sharon Murray took leave for treatment of a condition that causes her heart to race. She returned with a reduced schedule as an ADA-related reasonable accommodation.

AT&T docked that time off from Murray’s FMLA leave. As a result, she quickly ran out of FMLA leave and her absences exceeded those allowed under the modified schedule. So AT&T discharged her.

Murray sued, arguing that the time she took as a reasonable accommodation shouldn’t have counted toward her FMLA leave.

The court disagreed. It said employers are free to subtract reasonable-accommodation time off from available FMLA leave—as long as they notify the employee that’s what they’re doing. (Murray v. AT&T Mobility, No. 09-3334, 7th Cir., 2010)

Final note: AT&T allowed Murray to continue working the modified schedule as an accommodation, but wouldn’t tolerate any additional absences. Since she didn’t have more time available after using up her FMLA leave, she was terminated for missing more work.

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