The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one of the most modern and powerful tools for Texas employees with injuries and disabilities. Since its inception, workers have had the right to take blocks of leave for a serious medical condition. Workers have also had the ability to take intermittent leave, which allows workers to take medical leave on an as-needed basis. But what about using FMLA leave to reduce an employee’s work schedule? Is this qualifying FMLA leave? In an opinion letter dated February 9, 2023, the Department of Labor ruled that an employee with a disability may use FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule if the reduction is a reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability.
The FMLA is a federal law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for qualifying family and medical reasons, such as a serious health condition.
When an employee has a disability that affects their ability to perform the essential functions of their job, the employer has a legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the job or work environment that enables the employee to perform the essential functions of their job without undue hardship to the employer.
A reduced work schedule can be a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability, as it allows them to work fewer hours or take periodic days off to manage their condition. The FMLA provides a framework for how employees can take leave for a reduced work schedule due to their disability.
Eligibility for FMLA Leave for a Reduced Work Schedule
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for a covered employer, which includes private employers with 50 or more employees, and public agencies, including local, state, and federal governments. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. If these eligibility criteria are met, the employee may be able to take FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule due to their disability.
Using FMLA Leave for a Reduced Work Schedule
An employee with a disability may use FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule if it is a reasonable accommodation for their disability. For example, an employee with a chronic health condition that causes fatigue may need to work part-time or take occasional days off to rest. The reduced work schedule can be intermittent, meaning the employee takes time off periodically as needed, or it can be a permanent change to the employee’s schedule.
To bolster a request for FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule, the employee may provide medical certification to their employer that supports their need for the accommodation. The medical certification could describe the nature of the employee’s disability, how it affects their ability to perform their job, and how the reduced work schedule will enable them to perform their job. The certification must be completed by a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
If the employee is eligible for FMLA leave and has provided the required medical certification, the employer must grant the leave and provide the reduced work schedule as a reasonable accommodation. During the leave, the employer must continue to provide any benefits the employee is entitled to, such as health insurance or retirement benefits.
Benefits of FMLA Leave for a Reduced Work Schedule
FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule provides several benefits for employees with disabilities. It allows them to continue working while managing their condition, which can improve their health and well-being. It also helps them maintain their income and benefits, which can be critical when dealing with a disability.
Additionally, FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule can benefit employers by reducing turnover and training costs. By providing accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to remain on the job, employers can retain experienced workers who are familiar with the job and the company’s culture. This can save money on recruiting and training new employees.
FMLA leave for a reduced work schedule can be a valuable accommodation for Texas employees with disabilities. It allows them to manage their condition while continuing to work, and it can benefit both the employee and the employer by improving employee health and reducing turnover costs. If you have a disability and need a reduced work schedule as an accommodation, it’s important to understand your rights under the FMLA and
If you have issues taking FMLA leave or obtaining a reasonable accommodation, please contact our Texas employment law firm for an initial consultation.