Do You Know Which Absences Are Federally Protected?

Posted on

December 26th, 2017


fmlaManaging employee absenteeism is one of the greatest challenges facing employers. Employees miss work due to illness, vacations, and a variety of other factors, which is why most employers offer several types of paid and unpaid leave. However, a few absences for legitimate reasons are not employers’ main attendance concern. It is when employees begin to abuse their sick leave or paid time off that employers need to step in and address the issue. Even so, employers need to make sure they do not take disciplinary action against employees taking time off for reasons protected by federal and state law.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA protects employees when they have to take leave due to major life events. However, the employee must provide written notice that he or she will be absent as well as provide proof that their absence qualifies under FMLA (e.g. a doctor’s note). Some examples of life situations covered by FMLA include:

  • Giving birth and caring for a child during the child’s first year of life
  • Adopting and caring for a child for the first year
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health issue
  • Taking time off due to a serious health issue
  • Emergencies relating to a spouse, child, or parent due to the military

American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Businesses that employ individuals with disabilities have to put accommodations in place to ensure that employee can do his or her job without undue hardship. If an employer neglects to implement reasonable accommodations, that employee may not be able complete his or her job properly, resulting in absences. Employers need to discover the root cause of the absences before taking disciplinary action as the absences may fall under the ADA.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

This act protects military members’ jobs after returning from military service. Some periods of service are short, such as mandatory drill periods for individuals in the reserves. However, some service periods are months long and arise with little notice, such as when a reserve unit activates and deploys. In both of these instances, employers cannot take disciplinary action against the affected employee.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This act protects employees from discrimination based on their race, sex, color, national origin, and religion. Similar to the ADA, employers should investigate employee absences to determine their cause before disciplining the employee. For example, the employee may be absent due to a religious holiday, which Title VII protects.
In addition to federal laws, many states have laws protecting a variety of absences as well. Some of the most common are workers’ compensation and jury duty laws. Managing absenteeism is a challenging job but investing in absence reporting technology can help. To learn more about how absence reporting programs can help employers improve employee attendance while remaining compliant with federal and state laws, contact Actec today.