For starters, they are all laws intended to protect and promote the rights of employees. But for employers who have dealt with these three laws, you know that compliance requires ongoing intentional effort, the compliance boundaries are all shades of gray and there are many instances where these laws overlap. As such, it’ important to understand just how these three laws interact.
If you are subject to the FMLA, you are probably familiar with traditional circumstances when FMLA applies, including when an employee has a child or needs to have a major surgery. But there are other circumstances when you have an obligation to designate and treat a leave as FMLA. Here are a few misconceptions that we often address with clients:
Similar to the FMLA, an employee does not have to formally request a workplace accommodation under the ADA to trigger an employer’s obligation to act. Rather, once an employer has reason to believe that an employee may need an accommodation, it has an obligation to engage in the interactive process. This is where we smudge all of those bright lines that employers like to draw around their obligations.
If an employee refuses to perform part of her assigned job duties because she has a fear of heights — can you terminate her? Maybe, but not without first performing a thorough analysis and considering your obligations and risks. A federal appellate court recently found that an employer discriminated against a pharmacist in violation of the ADA for terminating the pharmacist when he refused to administer immunizations because of a fear of needles. This outcome was in large part due to the evidence indicating that administering immunizations was not an essential job duty. Take this as a reminder to review and update your job descriptions so that they accurately reflect essential and nonessential job duties. This will put you in a much better position to assess your risks and to take action in the event that a medical condition is impacting an employee’s ability to perform a job duty.
Workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for all claims related to employee injuries — right? Sort of. Workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for personal physical and mental injuries sustained during the course of employment. However, as discussed in a recent Minnesota Supreme Court case, workers’ compensation laws do not prohibit an employee from bringing a discrimination claim that stems from the same injury as the workers’ compensation claim. The employee isn’t, however, entitled to double recovery.
Hannah advises employers on leave policies, discrimination, harassment, accommodations, wage and hour obligations and any other issues that may arise in the workplace.
Hannah advises employers on leave policies, discrimination, harassment, accommodations, wage and hour obligations and any other issues that may arise in the workplace. In addition to providing practical solutions to employment law matters, Hannah has extensive private practice experience. Her focus included early intervention advice and solutions to employers, as well as representing them in the defense of administrative claims. She now works on a team dedicated to providing solutions for employment law and compliance matters for employers of all sizes. Hannah graduated from William Mitchell College of Law, after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Winona State University.
Risk management and human resources are traditionally two different job functions, and the people in these areas have rarely crossed paths — but that is changing.
Why are these people starting to work together more frequently?
On May 11, 2014, the governor of Minnesota signed the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), a bill that will require Minnesota employers to make dramatic changes to their employment policies and practices.
While WESA directly impacts employers who conduct business in Minnesota, the changes follow plans by federal and local governments to expand legal protections for women and other employees. For this reason, employers in other jurisdictions should pay close attention to these national and state law trends.
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