Employee Leave (FMLA and ADA)

I often tell my crazy teenagers that it doesn’t matter what you mean to say – it matters what the other person actually hears. (I’m not sure they actually hear me when I say that…) And a recent Family and Medical Leave Act case proves my point and provides a lesson for employers. Curlee v. Lewis Bros. Bakeries Inc. of Tennessee highlights the need for employers to be very careful and very clear in their verbal communications with employees about Family and Medical Leave Act obligations.
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Whether you are looking out your window at the wonder of snow or trying to prognosticate when it will hit, one thing is for sure.  If you are in a state with mandatory sick leave, employees may be invoking their right to no-questions-asked leave when you otherwise prohibit any excuses.  Such “no excuse” policies are common during snow events at businesses that must provide service – hospitals, property management companies, no-stop assembly lines. Think patients to be cared for, sidewalks to be cleared, machines that will seize without humans.
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Any HR professional who has dealt with the Family and Medical Leave Act knows that determining when and how the statute applies can be very tricky.  One thing that is clear, however, is that employees who have worked for less than one year and have not worked a total of 1250 hours are not eligible for FMLA leave and thus are not protected by the statute.  Or so we thought!  A case from last week, Reif v. Assisted Living by Hillcrest, LLC, dispels the notion that employees who have worked for less than a year are never subject to the protections of the FMLA.
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On May 2, 2018, the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.  That Act, which requires all employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees (with some exceptions), is scheduled to go into effect on October 29, 2018.  A summary of the Act’s requirements and obligations is provided below:
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Finally! The new Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms and notices are here!

As FMLA-covered employers sadly know, the FMLA requires employers to provide certain very detailed notices to employees requesting FMLA. In addition, employers may request only very specific and limited information from employees and their (or their family member’s) health care providers. The Department of Labor provides model FMLA forms and notices that meet the FMLA’s requirements on its website.
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Recently, I blogged about a press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which it misstated the law on post-offer medical examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was hoping that was a one-off mistake. But another recent EEOC press release has given me some concern, because I believe that it again misleads employers on their obligations under the ADA – this time with regard to associational discrimination.
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So after a hiatus of many years, the Department of Labor has once again begun issuing opinion letters, which are responses to a particular employer’s situation that offer guidance to all employers on specific issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is quite exciting for employment law nerds like me – and one of these letters highlighted an interesting interaction between the FLSA and disability laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and analogous state laws. (OK, I know that you’re on the edge of your seat now…)
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In a previous post about pet bereavement leave, I noted that the Family and Medical Leave Act does not provide leave to care for an ill or dying pet. (Because a pet is not technically a family member. Really. Despite how we pet-owners feel about our fur babies. That’s mine in the picture.) But I also said that, “if an employee becomes depressed because of the death of a pet, it is possible that this could rise to the level of a disability that would require a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or a serious health condition for which leave must be granted under the [Family and Medical Leave Act].” I further noted, however, that most people may experience grief but not become clinically depressed as the result of a pet’s death. So my interest was piqued by a recent case in which the employee claimed that his insomnia following his dog’s death was a serious health condition under the FMLA.
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Today, January 23, 2018, Senator “Mac” Middleton filed a bill to postpone for 60 days the enforcement of Maryland’s new sick and safe leave (SSL) law by the state Commissioner of Labor and Industry. Given the law’s effective date of February 11, 2018, this means that enforcement would begin on April 12, 2018. We strongly note, however, that compliance – including the commencement of SSL accrual – is still required as of the February 11 effective date.
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Here we are again on the brink of another possible federal government shutdown, and employers may be wondering how it may impact them. The last time, during the 2013 federal government shutdown, we provided a summary of the shutdown contingency plans for the major employment-related agencies – the Department of Labor (DOL) (which includes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage-Hour Division (WHD)), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  So we thought we’d provide you with an updated summary of these plans, which set forth what the agencies will and will not do if there is an actual shutdown.
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