Employers need workable and compliant strategies for navigating employee leaves of absence and disability accommodations

Managing employee absences, leave entitlements, and disability accommodation requests create challenges for employers, large and small. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically amplified the importance of employers’ obligations to make leave and accommodation decisions, bringing new legal obligations and accommodation challenges. Employers with remote workers and those with operations in multiple jurisdictions also face the challenge of complying with ever-expanding state and local paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave laws, such as kin care, paid sick leave, paid family-medical leave, and now mandatory PTO.

Littler attorneys take practical, solutions-oriented approaches to leave and accommodation issues, enabling employers not only to comply with the intersecting (and often conflicting) laws in this area, but also to administer their leave and accommodation obligations efficiently while proactively addressing potential employee abuse of such entitlements. Littler’s broad geographic footprint enables us to efficiently and effectively provide employers with cost-effective, detailed advice regarding leave and accommodation issues. Littler’s commitment to comprehensively tracking legal developments in this area allows us to provide up-to-the-minute information about new and changing laws, as well as practical and timely compliance advice.

Littler provides counseling and training

Members of the Leaves of Absence and Disability Accommodation practice group have years of combined experience advising clients on various laws, including: the FMLA; the ADA (including both the employment accommodation and public accommodation provisions of the statute); job-protected paid leaves (kin care, paid sick and safe, paid family-medical, mandatory PTO); the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); state unpaid family, medical, disability, and military leave laws; as well as miscellaneous additional state leave laws (such as pregnancy, jury duty, and crime victim leave laws). We can address the full range of issues employers face with respect to these laws, including: the permitted scope of disability-related inquiries at various stages of employment; ADA and FMLA coverage; proper tracking of employee leave usage; disciplinary decisions involving employees on leave or with medical conditions that may be impacting attendance and/or performance; and the outsourcing of leave administration.

We also regularly address employer issues involving the interplay among the FMLA, ADA, workers’ compensation laws, privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other laws, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), state/local leave and disability laws, and employee benefit plans (such as short-term and long-term disability plans).

Littler lawyers regularly:

  • Review and update employer leave and accommodation policies (including those suggested or used by third party administrators) to assure compliance with current law
  • Assist employers with developing and implementing overall strategies and internal procedures regarding FMLA and ADA compliance, accounting for variations under applicable state and local laws, and including methods for addressing coverage decisions, notice and interactive process obligations, fitness for duty and direct threat analyses, confidentiality requirements, and approaches to end-of-leave situations
  • Assist employers with properly implementing the interactive process under the ADA and related state laws. This includes requests – due to medical reasons – to be excused from recent employer safety protocols such as vaccine mandates
  • Collaborate with employers to resolve specific leave of absence issues, including navigating the FMLA’s rules regarding medical certifications, seeking medical opinions, and requiring employees to recertify a need for leave
  • Help employers practically resolve complex return-to-work and work-from-home issues, including organizational changes as a result
  • Perform comprehensive audits of existing policies and procedures to identify and remedy potential exposure issues
  • Prepare compliant policies for multiple jurisdictions and strategic advice that will enable employers to effectively administer those policies
  • Help employers comply with paid family and medical leave laws
  • Train HR professionals on challenging and frequently-changing leave and accommodation obligations
  • Train managers on various leave and accommodation issues in light of their critical role in the accommodations process
  • Counsel employers on public accommodations issues

Defending employers in employee leave or accommodation disputes

Littler effectively and efficiently defends employers in FMLA, ADA (Titles I and III), USERRA, and state/local leave and accommodation disputes. Attorneys in the Leaves of Absence and Disability Accommodation practice group are well-versed in these types of disputes.

Staying on top of leave and accommodation legal developments

Littler provides up-to-date and insightful analyses of recent developments regarding leaves and accommodations. Members of our practice group are frequent speakers at various events and regularly publish articles relevant to leaves and accommodations, nationally, regionally, and locally. We can equip you with comprehensive and up-to-date information on leave of absence and disability accommodation laws through Littler GPS. Through our innovative joint venture with NeotaLogic, Littler can also provide access to ComplianceHR’s Navigator Leave application—a powerful AI-based software platform that enables employers to create customized and compliant federal and state leave forms, provides leave administration workflow guidance and reminders, and includes access to a rapid reference tool summarizing employer obligations under various leave laws.

Littler and Canine Companions for Independence®

Littler and Canine Companions For Independence®, a non-profit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities at no charge, have formed a strategic partnership to address issues related to accommodation requests in the workplace. We are working together to provide guidance for companies on managing service animal accommodation requests in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Learn more about our partnership

Leaves of Absence and Disability Accommodation Contacts

Alexis C. Knapp


Jeff Nowak

Focus On: Leaves of Absence

Focus On: Leaves of Absence

Focus On: Paid Sick Leave

Focus On: Paid Sick Leave

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