A disability leave of absence is a protected leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The leave can be used for an employee's own serious health condition or to care for a sick family member.
The ADA requires employers (with 15 or more workers) to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This may include a leave of absence for medical treatment or to recover from a disability.
The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee's own serious health condition or to care for a sick family member. Employees can take the entirety of the leave allowance at once or intermittently.
someone who is considerably limited in one or more regular life activities (such as walking, breathing, hearing, sitting, lifting, or performing manual tasks) because of a cognitive or bodily handicap
who has a history or record of such an impairment
who is perceived by others as having such a handicap
The ADA does not specifically list all types of disabilities that fall under its definition of "disability."
The ADA also protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of employment, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and other conditions and privileges of employment.
What are an Employer's Obligations Under the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that businesses make reasonable accommodations to employees and job applicants with disabilities who need them to play a part in the job application process or perform key work responsibilities.
Reasonable accommodation may include but is not limited to making existing facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities, modifying work schedules, providing sign language interpreters, or making other similar accommodations.
Employers are not compelled to make a reasonable accommodation if doing so would impose an excessive burden on the functioning of their company.
The ADA does not specifically address leave as a reasonable accommodation. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the ADA, has stated that leave may be a form of reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
How Long Does Disability Leave Last?
The ADA does not set a specific amount of leave that an employer must provide as a reasonable accommodation. The amount of leave that is reasonable will depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual case.
Some factors that may be considered in determining the amount of leave that is reasonable include:
The kind and degree of the impairment
The nature of the core work functions
The effect of the accommodations on the business's operations
The amount of leave that would be required to enable the individual to return to work
The availability of other employees to perform the essential functions of the job during the period of leave
The financial resources of the employer
The impact of the accommodation on the ability of other employees to receive the leave
The ADA does not require employers to provide leave beyond the amount of leave that is provided under the employer's leave policy.
However, if an employer provides leave under its leave policy, the ADA requires that the leave be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities on the same terms and conditions as leave is provided to other employees.
How Does Disability Leave Differ from Other Types of Leave?
Disability leave differs from other types of leave in terms of vacation time, condition, or sick days.
Disability leave is typically taken when an employee is unable to work due to a medical condition. This can be a short-term or long-term disability, lasting for weeks, months, or even years. Other types of leave, such as personal leave, are typically taken for non-medical reasons.
Disability leave is usually taken to return to work at some point. Some leaves, such as retirement, are usually taken to leave the workforce permanently.
Employees on disability leave often need to provide their employers with documentation from a doctor or other medical professional confirming their need for the leave.
What is Short-Term Disability Leave?
Short-term disability leave differs from long-term in terms of the period of leave from work that is taken by an employee who is unable to perform the essential functions of their job. The length of time is typically between two and six weeks.
Short-term disability leave can be used for a variety of medical conditions, including pregnancy, surgery, and recovery from an injury. Many employers require employees to use their accrued sick time before taking short-term disability leave.
Employees who take short-term disability leave are typically eligible for continuation of their health insurance coverage under the employer’s group health plan. In addition, some employers may provide salary continuation or other benefits during the leave period.
When an employee returns from short-term disability leave, they are typically reinstated to their previous position. However, some employers may require employees to undergo a medical examination before returning to work.