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The Business Case for Following ADAAA and FMLA

Often times, a negative reaction is expected when an employer hears the terms “FMLA” or “ADA.” While both regulations require full understanding and a great deal of paperwork, they also may provide value to the organizations that follow them.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA and commonly shortened to ADA) are laws that put accommodations into place for workers.  Employers only have to follow the ADAAA if they employ more than 15 people and FMLA if they employ 50 or more people within a 75 mile radius. While the laws only require businesses of a certain size to comply, most organizations would benefit from adopting these practices as their standard by allowing leaves of absence as a workplace accommodation, when appropriate.

Following the guidance of the ADAAA and FMLA in small organizations can have many benefits, including, but not limited to:

  • Retention of valued employees
  • Boosting morale of accommodated employee(s) and others
  • Reduction of business interruptions caused by employee turnover
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Reduced organizational stress when handling accommodation requests, given the implementation of a clear policy and process

While reasonable accommodations under the ADA can run the gamut from providing an ergonomically correct chair for an employee to investing in voice recognition software, a sometimes overlooked accommodation is a leave of absence. In recent years, courts have often ruled that providing a leave of absence is a reasonable accommodation.  This is especially noteworthy for employers who have less than the 50 employee minimum required for FMLA, as the court rulings essentially indicate that even these employers must provide leaves that align with FMLA requirements. The recommendation, therefore, is that if you have 15 or more employees that you always follow the FMLA guidelines for leaves of absence.

For even smaller employers, the recommendation is most often the same. For instance, if a company of only eight people has an employee request maternity leave, the business technically has no obligation by law to offer the employee a leave of absence.  Most leaders, however, prefer to offer an accommodation that is fair to both to the employee and the business.  The denial of the maternity leave likely would lead to a negative impact on morale for the remaining staff, as well as a potential external public relations issue.

If the Company in this example, despite its size, had adopted policies that mirrored ADA and FMLA, the process for reviewing the leave request would be clear and the employer’s response would be pre-determined. These policies create consistency and predictability for employees and the Company and prevent the business leader from having to make “ad-hoc” decisions during times that already have an increased level of stress.  In this instance, the Company likely would provide an unpaid leave of absence up to 12 weeks, after which the employee would be required to return to work or be considered to have resigned her position.

This example is just one of the many ways employees can be accommodated through a leave of absence.  With the ADAAA, there are many options to making work ‘work’ for both the employer and employee without causing hardship to either party.

Navigating employee accommodations while keeping the best interests of the employer in mind can be complicated. EctoHR, Inc. is here to help with policy development and implementation, employee relations, benefits administration and other HR matters. For assistance, please contact us at 810.534.0170 or

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