Employees covered by theare entitled to return to their jobs after taking up to 12 weeks off to deal with a serious health condition. But sometimes employees aren’t fully recovered when their runs out. Then they often ask for some form of accommodation that will let them perform the essential functions of their jobs.
Employers don’t have to reinstate such employees under the FMLA.
Recent case: Lisa Lupyan worked for Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit educational institution, as an instructor. When first hired, she received a copy of the employee handbook, which explained FMLA leave in detail.
She signed an acknowledgment indicating she had received and read the handbook.
When she became depressed and anxious, she wanted some time off. She filled out forms indicating that she wanted to take personal leave. The forms were sent to the college headquarters in California, where the HR director concluded that FMLA leave was what she really needed. HR sent the forms back to Lupyan with instructions to change the leave to FMLA leave. She did.
Lupyan was out for more than 12 weeks. Her doctor wouldn’t fully release her, concluding she shouldn’t go straight back to the classroom. The college then fired her.
Lupyan sued, alleging that she should have been accommodated rather than fired.
The court disagreed. It said that nothing in the FMLA requires an employer to reinstate an employee who isn’t fully ready to assume her old duties after the end of her 12 weeks of FMLA leave. (Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges, No. 2:09-CV-1403, WD PA, 2011)
Final note: Lupyan didn’t qualify as disabled under the ADA. If she had, more time off might have been a reasonable accommodation under that law.