Human Resources News & Insights

Why you shouldn’t automatically fire staff who run out of FMLA

With the recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many courts are still figuring out how the law fits in with other, relevant employment laws.

But one lesson that everyone should know by this point: When employees run out of FMLA leave, companies must check to see if they could qualify for time off under the ADA as well.

Needed two knee replacements

Iris Nelson, a teacher at Head Start in Hitchcock, TX, was diagnosed with arthritis that required knee replacement surgery in both legs.

During her first surgery, she used up all but one day of leave allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Policy stated that Nelson wouldn’t be eligible for more leave for another nine months, yet she requested another two-and-a-half months of leave for more surgery soon after.

Whe informed that she’d used up her leave, Nelson allegedly offered to use a walker or take pain medication until she could take leave again, but the district reportedly declined that option.

Nelson underwent surgery anyway soon after. When the school district fired her, she sued, claiming the school failed to accommodate her disability or engage in the interactive process – and the court agreed.

The reason: Not only did the school fail to engage Nelson in the interactive process, but it also allegedly rejected her suggestions for how to make things work.


The case is Nelson v. Hitchcock Independent School District.

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