Most people have heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act, or “ADA.” You may also have heard about the FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act. These two federal laws give employees protection from being treated unfairly because of disabilities or serious illnesses requiring them to miss work, or require they receive some accommodation at work to make up for a disability.
Like most of the employment laws intended to protect employees, these laws can be complicated. They have very specific provisions that must be followed in order to receive the protections they afford.
The most important thing to understand about the ADA, and the amendments to it, is that the employee has to clearly communicate to his employer about any special accommodations or needs the employee might need because of a disability. Usually a doctor needs to be involved to tell the employer exactly what accommodations are necessary, and why. The employee should work closely with his or her doctor, and should communicate often and clearly to the employer, about the desired accommodation.
Not every physical or mental impairment is a “disability” under the law, so you need to understand whether your particular condition is protected. By the same token, many employers don’t understand the ADA, and they may not realize they have a legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee.
Sometimes, even if the ADA does not apply, the FMLA will provide at least some time off of work for an employee who it trying to recover, or who has a family member who needs to be taken to the doctor or otherwise cared for.
Before you apply for FMLA leave or for an accommodation of a disability, be sure you understand your employer’s policies and procedures for applying. Also, be sure you understand how the law works and what is required. For example, doctors often don’t understand what they need to put in the FMLA paperwork to insure you get the leave you are entitled to. Work closely with your doctor, and stay in close contact with your employer to insure the employer has received what it requires from you and from your doctor.
If you run into any problems with your employer denying you leave, or a reasonable accommodation, you should immediately contact an experienced employment lawyer. There are specific time deadlines an requirements for pursuing a claim under the ADA or the FMLA, and you should waste no time understanding what your rights are and what you need to do to protect them. These laws are there to protect you, but you have to know how to use them in order to get the protections they provide.