The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to permit those who meet statutory eligibility requirements to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave in a 12 month period. At the same time, many employers provide, as a matter of policy, a specified length for unpaid leaves of absence. But what of the employee who has exhausted (or is not yet eligible for) such leave? Does an employer have a legal obligation to grant a request for unpaid leave to an employee who is not eligible for FMLA leave or after it has been exhausted? Where its policies provide for leave in excess of FMLA, may an employer place a limit on the length and terminate an employee who remains unable to work after?
The unfortunate answer is “maybe.” Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer violates the statute by, among other things: