A lawsuit filed this week by Jim Garrity alleges that his client was fired for taking medical leave after hip replacement surgery. She ran out of FMLA leave, and asked for (and was promised) brief additional leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires employers to offer additional leave if FMLA leave runs out.
But her employer refused to do that. Once it learned she needed more time, it fired her.
That’s a violation of both the ADA’s reasonable-accommodation rule and the FMLA’s anti-retaliation provisions.
Our client, a highly-accomplished reading teacher, suffers from dwarfism. She is 122 cm (48 inches) tall. Dwarfism can cause hip deformities that require partial or total hip replacements. To illustrate, most hip replacement surgeries are needed by patients 60 to 80 years old. But our client, who’s 31, has already had both hips replaced.
She went out of her way to minimize the inconvenience her surgery would cause, But it didn’t matter. As soon as her bosses learned she needed more leave, the lawsuit alleges, it ran her out the door. It says the company’s HR chief set up a phone call and, without revealing in advance what was about to happen, told our client that because her FMLA leave was up, she was fired. The lawsuit says the HR chief openly told her the company’s practice is to fire employees as soon as their FMLA leave is gone.
Our client was devastated. Teaching children is her identity. In fact, she decided to have the surgery to alleviate the excruciating pain she suffered, which in turn would allow her to continue teaching for years. The lawsuit seeks lost income, pain and suffering damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs. It also demands that the company reinstate her to her former position.
Did You Know? You’re Entitled to Even More Unpaid Leave Once Your FMLA Leave Runs Out
The FMLA is one of two laws requiring employers to give you unpaid leave for serious health conditions. The other law is the ADA. In some ways the ADA is even better than the FMLA because it isn’t limited to twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave. In fact, it has no set limit. But you have to ask for it, and you must ask so before your FMLA leave runs out. If you’ve never heard of this before, don’t feel bad. Many employers don’t know about their obligation to offer ADA leave. So this is an area where you may need a lawyer’s help to make sure you get the full benefit of your legal rights.
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