From the Hotline: ADA Interaction with FMLA

Question: If an employee is not eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave but was approved for an unpaid personal leave due to a medical emergency, are they also covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Answer: There may be a requirement for interaction under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions to qualify. Under the ADA, if the employee has a disability defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, the employee would be considered protected under the ADA.

Generally impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically not covered, although they may be covered if sufficiently severe.

Definition of Disability

The definition of disability is an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. When determining whether an employee has a disability, you need to know:

  1. Does the employee have an impairment? If yes,
  2. Does the impairment affect a major life activity? If yes,
  3. Does the impairment substantially limit the major life activity?

Remember, the definition of disability is now very broad so if you are not sure whether an employee has a disability, best practice is to err on the side of caution and process a leave accommodation request when reasonable.