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How to Handle the Interaction of the FMLA, ADA and Workers' Compensation Laws

Author: Steven J. Luckner, Ogletree Deakins

The interaction of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and workers' compensation laws is known by many employers to be the Bermuda Triangle of employment law. It is crucial that an employer ensure compliance with these laws as a violation can result in damages such as lost wages, back pay, reinstatement, retroactive benefits, compensatory damages and punitive damages. It is also important for an employer to understand how these laws interact for the economic efficiency of the employer's business operations. Failure to understand how these laws work together can cost an employer significant money in workdays lost, temporary help costs and overtime pay.

The best way to handle the interaction of these laws is to know when each law is implicated and exactly what each one requires. For example, some leaves may only implicate one of these laws, like caring for another person (FMLA). Some leaves may implicate two of these laws, like an injury not related to work (FMLA and ADA). Some leaves may implicate all three laws, like an injury at work that substantially limits a major life activity. Once an employer understands when each of these laws applies and what they require, it will be simpler to navigate their interaction.