Employees sometimes develop medical conditions. Executives, managers, supervisors, and co-workers are well-advised to remember that medical conditions could affect anyone at any time, including them. Keeping this in mind can help employers address an employee’s medical condition in a fair, legally-compliant manner.
Several laws protect employees with medical conditions. Employers must know what to do when they learn that an employee’s medical condition interferes with the ability to work. I’ll try to address common questions through use of a continuous and evolving hypothetical.
What federal laws commonly apply?
When an employee informs you that a medical condition is interfering with the ability to work, at least three federal laws often come into play: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). The ADA and GINA generally apply if the employer has at least 15 employees. The FMLA generally applies if the employer has at least 50 employees and if the employee has been employed at least 12 months (which need not be consecutive), actually worked at least 1250 hours during the immediately preceding 12 months, and works at a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires consideration of reasonable accommodations to enable an otherwise qualified employee with a disability to perform essential job functions. The FMLA requires leaves of absence. GINA prohibits discrimination based on genetic information, including family medical history. All three laws impact requests for medical information. I’ll illustrate the practical application of these laws to common scenarios.
A word about worker’s compensation and other state laws
For this series of blog posts, I’ll assume that the medical condition is not job related. If the medical condition is job related, applicable worker’s compensation law should be considered. Moreover, it is important for employers to remember that their state’s discrimination and leave laws may impact the issues addressed in this blog. With those caveats in mind, let’s get started with the next post.
(This post is not legal advice. Consider consulting with a lawyer about any specific situation)