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Your Employee Matters


By October 1, 2011No Comments

In the case of Rogers v County of L.A., the court ruled that an employee who was out on more than 12 weeks of leave no longer enjoyed protection under the FMLA for job reinstatement. Here’s the court’s ruling (edited for brevity):

First, the CFRA statutory language (which mirrors the FMLA) expressly allows an employee “to take up to a total of 12 workweeks in any 12-month period.” The statute also requires an employer to provide “a guarantee of employment in the same or a comparable position upon the termination of the leave.”

Second, other obligations under the CFRA are tied expressly to the 12-week protected leave policy. For example, the employer may require the employee to use accrued sick leave “during the period of the leave.” The employer is only required to maintain and pay for coverage in a Group Health plan “for the duration of the leave, not to exceed 12 workweeks in a 12-month period.” Under certain circumstances, the employer can recover premiums paid for maintaining coverage for the employee under the Group Health plan if the employee “fails to return from leave after the period of leave to which the employee is entitled has expired.”

Third, other courts interpreting the CFRA and the FMLA have concluded that the statutes only ensure protected leave for a 12-week period. In the Neisendorf case, the court cited three federal cases holding that an employer does not violate the FMLA when it fires an employee who is unable to return to work at the conclusion of the 12-week protected period.

Finally, policy considerations underlying the FMLA, which closely parallels our CFRA, support our conclusion. In enacting the FMLA, Congress was concerned about “inadequate job security for employees who have serious health conditions that prevent them from working for temporary periods. “The purposes of the FMLA are: “(1) to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, (2) to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, and (3) to accomplish [these] purposes … in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers.”

Bottom line: Let employees know that there is no ADA job protection after 12 weeks of leave. Also, remember that you might still have an accommodation obligation under the ADA to do the job for which you hired them, unless doing so constitutes an undue hardship (which was not argued in this case).