Compliance with the Family & Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act continues to cause issues for even the most experienced workplace professionals. In recent years, both the FMLA and ADA have expanded coverage for employee medical issues. For example, employees who are approved for FMLA-covered intermittent leave must be permitted to use that leave in one-hour increments (or even smaller increments if an employer permits these short bursts of leave for non-FMLA absences). Likewise, the ADA’s current version now covers most employee health conditions and, instead, places the emphasis on whether employers have taken all available steps to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers.
So far, 2015 has brought new developments for both the FMLA and the ADA. In February 2015, the Department of Labor proposed a change to the FMLA’s definition of the term “spouse” to encompass both common law and same-sex marriages. In this proposed rule, the term “spouse” would mean a husband or wife recognized under State marriage laws in the “place of celebration”. In April 2015, the EEOC issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the appropriate parameters of employer wellness programs within the confines of the ADA. Among the guidance contained in the EEOC’s proposed rules is that such programs must be truly voluntary; must be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease; employees may not be required to participate in a wellness program; and they may not be denied health coverage or disciplined if they refuse to participate.
In this continually-changing environment, it is imperative that employers understand their obligations under the FMLA; the ADA; and the interplay between these two laws.