Are FMLA Leave Requests Also ADA Reasonable Accommodation Requests?

Through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most employers in the United States are required to provide protected and unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons, such as the birth of a child or a serious illness.

Some legal experts, however, are questioning if the FMLA protections are essentially the same as those provided through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The latter requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who have a medical condition or disability, but are still able to perform the primary functions of their jobs.

In a recent case, an employee of Mondelez International took intermittent FMLA leave due to a degenerative bone disease, but the company found out that he was arrested for drunk driving on one of the days he took off. They terminated his employment, and he went on to sue the company for wrongful termination, claiming Mondelez violated his rights under the ADA.

The court disagreed, ruling that a request for medical leave was not the equivalent to a request for accommodation under the ADA.

Employers, workers should take a collaborative approach

While this issue is still subject to legal debate, the most practical solution for organizations (and their human resources departments) is to work with employees to determine the best course of action to keep all parties satisfied. However, this recent case could become a factor in situations where an employee feels the need to take legal action against an employer for an alleged FMLA or ADA violation.

If you have questions about this issue and how it might impact your job, consult a knowledgeable Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.