Trying to manage a serious disability or illness while working year-round can be next to impossible for some disabled Americans. Fortunately, there are two federal laws that provide basic workplace protections for those living with disabilities: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This legislation means you are legally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid disability leave when you qualify under FMLA guidelines, and your employer must also make “reasonable accommodations” for your disability under the ADA. If your employer fails to consider these two rights and discriminates on the basis of your disability, you could have grounds to pursue a lawsuit against them.
Is My Employer Required to Offer Disability Leave?
Unfortunately, most states in the U.S. do not currently require employers to offer any form of paid medical leave, whether for a long-term disability or for other medical reasons like pregnancy. Additionally, not all employers are even required to offer FMLA unpaid leave, as private-sector employers must have at least 50 employees working within a 75 mile radius in order to be covered.
In some cases, you may not meet the requirements for unpaid leave on a personal level, even if you’ve qualified for Social Security Disability benefits. That’s because you need to have worked for at least 12 non-consecutive months for a covered employer – with at least 1,250 hours of service during that period – in order to qualify for the disability leave and job protections that are included in the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Understanding Your Disability Rights
Of course, thanks to both the ADA and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it is unequivocally illegal for your employer to discriminate against you on the basis of your disability. When you do qualify for the 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave, you have the right to keep the same or a similar job once you return to work – and any employer who terminates or demotes you because of your disability leave can be sued for damages. Employers are also obligated to continue your health insurance and other benefits throughout the duration of your leave.
Additionally, even if your leave isn’t technically protected by the FMLA, your employment law attorney may be able to demonstrate that you were entitled to more reasonable accommodations from your employer, as dictated by the ADA. By demonstrating that other employees were given more flexibility in similar situations, you could be able to prove disability discrimination. This is equally true if your employer fires you on unfounded fears or generalizations about your condition, rather than legitimate concerns about workplace safety.
No matter what your specific case entails, our Memphis employment law attorneys can help you navigate the process of filing a disability discrimination claim against your employer. More than just another legal team, we’re truly passionate about helping people, especially those who experience unfair treatment on the basis of their physical health. With more than 35 years of experience assisting clients in the Mid-South, we can examine your case for signs that discrimination took place, and take strong action when needed.
Contact Donati Law, PLLC at (901) 209-5500 for prompt and professional legal assistance!