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FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

Applies to: Employers with 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius of the work site during each of

20 or more workweeks of the current or preceding calendar year.

Employee eligibility: The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and clocked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months leading up to the FMLA leave. On-call time counts, but paid time off such as vacation does not.

Qualifying conditions: The employee may take FMLA leave for his own "serious health condition"; for birth, adoption or to provide foster care; or to care for a sick child, spouse or parent.

Courts continue to fine-tune the definition, but a serious health condition is an "illness, injury, impairment or any physical or mental condition that requires inpatient medical care or continuing treatment by a health care provider."

If your state recognizes common-law marriages, those spouses also are covered, but the law does not cover care for siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents or in-laws. It doesn't cover children 18 or older unless they are unable to care for themselves because of a mental or physical disability.

Amount of leave: Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period.

You must set a fixed period for all employees based on: the calendar year, a "leave year" such as your fiscal year, a year mandated by state law, the worker's employment anniversary leave, or a rolling period starting with the first FMLA leave. If you don't designate how you measure the year, the employee can take advantage of the best option for him. The rolling period, for example, keeps the employee from linking 12 weeks at the end of one year with 12 weeks at the beginning of the next.

Reinstatement: The employee is entitled to return to the same or an equivalent position. You may, however, deny reinstatement to key salaried employees (in the top 10 percent of salaries at your company) if reinstatement would cause "substantial or grievous economic injury."

Benefits: You must maintain group health insurance, life insurance and disability benefits as long as the employee continues to pay any part he usually pays while on leave. If coverage is canceled, you must reinstate the employee when he returns.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

Applies to: Employer with 15 or more workers.

Employee eligibility: Those able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

Qualifying conditions: Physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. Temporary conditions may not qualify.

Amount of leave: Leave can be an accommodation under the ADA, but courts recognize that an indefinite leave may cause an undue hardship on the employer and, therefore, be unreasonable.

Reinstatement: If the employer can't return the employee to the same position, the employee can be returned to a vacant, equivalent position. If that's unavailable, return to a lower position is allowed.

Benefits: A disabled employee is entitled to the same health insurance coverage as other employees in the same situation.

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