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Cancer: When Do The ADA And FMLA Apply?

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There probably isn't one person in America whose life has not been touched by cancer, whether the individual has been diagnosed with some form of it or someone they love has been. Given this probability, employers across the country must be prepared for the day when cancer hits their workplace. Thus, the EEOC released a Q&A on cancer in the workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But the ADA is not the only law you must consider. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may also be a factor. It is up to you to determine which law applies and how to comply when they both do.

One of the main areas in which these laws intersect is on the issue of time off. The danger lies in where the laws diverge on this matter. Here are some fast ADA and FMLA facts you should know, which apply to medical conditions beyond cancer.

ADA: The amount of time an employee may take is open-ended, depending on what will create an undue hardship for the employer. FMLA: This law requires a maximum of 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period.

ADA: Leave may be taken only for the individual's disability. FMLA: Leave may be taken for an employee's own serious health condition or that of his/her spouse, parent, or child.

ADA: There is no minimum length of employment or number of hours worked that an employee must meet before requesting leave as an accommodation. FMLA: The employee must have worked for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in order to receive leave.

ADA: Leave may be taken only for fairly serious health conditions. FMLA: More minor conditions, such as the flu, may be covered.

ADA: Instead of granting leave as an accommodation, you may assign an employee to a light-duty position. FMLA: You may not require an employee to take a light-duty job in lieu of FMLA leave.

Rule of thumb: When provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act collide, you need to look at which law provides the employee with greater rights.

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