These case summaries, courtesy of Worklaw Network firm Shawe Rosenthal, spotlight the symbiotic interaction between these two leave laws.
A federal court in Alabama held that an employer had no duty under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to restore the employee to her job with an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Brown v. Montgomery Surgical Center, the employee who sought to return to work after FMLA leave provided a doctor’s note with lifting and standing restrictions. The employer refused to reinstate her without a full release. She then sued under the FMLA and ADA. The employee’s ADA claims were dismissed as untimely filed. With regard to her FMLA claims, the Court observed that the right to reinstatement under the act is not absolute, and held that an employee who is unable to perform an essential job function is not entitled to reinstatement. The FMLA does not require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to return to work at the end of FMLA leave. The reasonable accommodation obligation arises from the ADA, not the FMLA.
More on the ADA and FML
In another case exploring the interaction between the ADA and the FMLA, a federal court in Pennsylvania held that an employee was not entitled to reinstatement under the FMLA to a pre-leave position that the company had given her as an accommodation for a temporary disability under the ADA and to provide better accommodation of her need for intermittent leave under the FMLA. In Karaffa v. Montgomery Township, a pregnant employee who was usually assigned rotating morning, evening, and overnight shifts was reassigned to morning shifts only as an accommodation for her gestational diabetes. Following her FMLA leave, the employee sought to return to the morning shift assignment. The court noted that she had been assigned the shift in connection with her need for intermittent FMLA, and thus it was not a position that she held “when leave commenced.” Moreover, under the ADA, this morning shift assignment was an accommodation for her temporary disability of gestational diabetes, which no longer existed after the birth of her child. Thus, both laws required the employer only to reinstate her to the original rotating shift assignment.