|IV. Intersecting Legal Obligations|
In addition to the FMLA and FMLR, various other state and federal statutes provide employees with rights to leaves of absence. This section provides an outline of what those other statutes require of employers and how they interact with the FMLA/FMLR.
A. The Duty of Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA & MHRA
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) place a duty of reasonable accommodation upon employers. An employee who is a "qualified individual with a disability" has a right to reasonable accommodations that are necessary to enable him or her to perform the essential functions of his or her position.
B. Workers' Compensation and the Absent Worker.
Maine's Workers' Compensation Act (WCA) provides for wage loss benefits to employees when they are not "able to work" due to workplace injuries. This obligation exists even if an employee is terminated for cause. However, if an employee unreasonably quits a job or turns down an offer of reasonable employment the employee will likely be held to have forfeited all wage loss benefits.
C. Gender Discrimination (Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act).
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, intended to make clear that the prohibition in Title VII against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, child birth or related medical conditions." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The statute does not create any independent right to leave of absence or fringe benefits for pregnant women: instead, it requires an employer to treat women temporarily disabled because of pregnancy or related medical conditions the same as it would treat any other employee subject to a temporary disability. This may include leaves of absence, job modifications, or other accommodations, If other employees who are temporarily disabled may take leave with pay or with fringe benefits, women who are temporarily disabled by pregnancy or related conditions must be afforded the same opportunities. Conversely, an employer may not require an employee to take leave if she is physically able to continue working.
D. Collective Bargaining Agreements.
The employee rights established by the FMLA supercede provisions of any collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that contradict those rights. For example, the FMLA expressly provides that "a provision of a CBA that provides for reinstatement to a position that is not equivalent because of a seniority (e.g., provides lesser pay) is superceded by FMLA."
E. Employee Benefits (COBRA & ERISA)
The taking of FMLA or FMLR leave is not a "qualifying event" under COBRA. which would trigger the notice requirements of that statute. Provided that the employer is not prepared to continue medical benefits during any additional leave provided, an employee's failure to return to work after an FMLA leave will most likely be a qualifying event under COBRA. At that point in time, the employer must send the employee the required notification. A lapse in payments on the employee's part during an FMLA leave will also be deemed a qualifying event in most cases.
F. Military Leave (USERRA & Maine's Military Leave Law)