Time Is On Whose Side? What Happens After FMLA Leave Has Been Exhausted?

As the saying goes, “Showing up is half the battle.” In the employment context, showing up to work is actually considered an “essential job function” and may be critical for continued employment. However, when an employee has a qualifying family and/or medical event that requires she take leave from work, both the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) require employers, with 50 or more employees, to provide qualifying employees with up to twelve weeks of leave.  Notably, this leave can run concurrent with the exhaustion of employee’s sick time and/or paid time off.  By and large, at the conclusion of FMLA and/or FLA leave, an employee is expected to report back to work. 

But what happens when an employee who has already exhausted her leave cannot return to work?  What if his doctor says she just needs two more days? Or weeks? Or months?  The short answer… well, it depends.

This is because New Jersey Courts recognize the provision of time off, for an employee’s qualifying family or medical reason, to be a form of “reasonable accommodation.” Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.  With this in mind, the question becomes, does accommodating an employee who needs additional time beyond allotted FMLA and/or FLA leave period, pose an undue hardship to his employer? The answer often depends on a fact sensitive analysis of the circumstances including the nature of employer’s business, the employee’s position, and the accommodation being sought.

Hoagland Longo attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers and individuals in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information about FMLA or FLA leave or for any other labor and employment questions you may have, please contact Nicole M. Grzeskowiak or call 733-545-4717.