Two recent cases serve as a reminder of why those in the workers’ compensation profession need to be mindful of both the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
In Zuber v Boscov’s, decided September 11, 2017, http://bit.ly/2AySIuH, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals allowed an FMLA action to proceed, despite the employer’s objection that the employee settled those causes of action along with his workers’ compensation claim. After the settlement, Zuber brought suit against his employer alleging, among other things, that his employer failed to notify him of his FMLA rights when he went off work for his injury; failed to designate his leave as FMLA protected; and retaliated against him for exercising his protected medical leave. His employer argued that the settlement barred the FMLA actions, because they arose out of the work injury. The Third Circuit Court disagreed. The Court focused on the settlement language, in which Zuber waived actions arising from “all aspects of the 8/12/2014 alleged work injury claim and its sequela whether known or unknown at this time.” The Court noted that the settlement agreement did not specifically address FMLA issues, and the language of the agreement focused on the “work injury claim”.
This August, United Parcel Service agreed to pay $2 million to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). http://bit.ly/2uQ0M72 Part of the suit alleged that UPS’ leave policy unfairly terminated disabled employees without engaging in the interactive process mandated by the ADA. UPS’ leave policy allegedly automatically terminated employees when they reached 12 months of leave, well beyond the 12 weeks mandated by the FMLA. However, the EEOC maintains that any inflexible medical leave policy, or policy that requires employees be released to full duty before returning to work, is an ADA violation. http://bit.ly/1QWxJ43
Federal courts differ on the extent to which the ADA requires additional leave above and beyond that mandated by the FMLA. Courts might also differ on the interpretation of the settlement language in the Zuber case. However, these cases serve as a reminder that all lost-time claims bring potential FMLA and ADA issues with them. Employers ignore these at their own peril.