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Offer half-Day FMLA leave regardless of the burden

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

It’s important to know how your responsibilities differ under the ADA and the FMLA.

The ADA requires you to allow part-time work as an accommodation only if doing so is reasonable for your company’s operations. But under the FMLA, employees have the unconditional right to intermittent leave, including working part-time for an extended period.

The difference stems from the fact that FMLA leave is an entitlement: You must give eligible employees the time off regardless of your reasonable business needs. The ADA, on the other hand, calls for you to balance business needs with the worker’s need for accommodation.

Bottom line: No matter how burdensome an employee’s request for intermittent FMLA seems, you must allow him or her the necessary time off.

Recent case: After accountant Kimbra Matthews had eye surgery, her doctor certified that she had a “serious health condition” (as defined by the FMLA) and advised her to work halfdays for three months.

Instead of granting her request for intermittent FMLA leave, her employer made her take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It argued that it couldn’t afford to hire a part-time replacement and still pay Matthews for part-time work.

Matthews sued. The court upheld her FMLA claim, saying she needed half-time work and was entitled to it. (Matthews v. Village Center Community Development District, No. 5:05-CV-344, MD FL, 2006)  

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