Periodically, we like to offer success stories from HR pros from across the U.S. This account of how one employer ensured compliance with overlapping leave laws comes courtesy of Lisa Dally, AA/EEO officer and medical leave coordinator of the Wisconsin Department of Administration in Madison, WI.
When our circuit court ruled that employers can be obligated to provide leave beyond 12 weeks of FMLA as a reasonable accommodation, we knew we needed a clear, consistent process for handling these types of situations.
Our organization frequently handled extended leave situations, and the last thing we could afford was inconsistent administration.
So we did some research on extended leave under the ADA and found our starting point.
Prior to the ruling, we’d offered a temporary accommodation to employees who had exhausted their FMLA: an additional six months of leave, when appropriate.
That practice needed to be updated a bit. We needed a fact-specific way to engage in the interactive process to see if extended leave was reasonable – or if it would create an undue hardship for us.
But we wanted to streamline the process so everything was consistent – and managers and supervisors weren’t spending unnecessary time on any unimportant details.
That’s how I hit on the idea for the leave-analysis template. The template is used by supervisors in leave requests beyond standard FMLA and our own six-month temporary accommodation.
The template asks supervisors to answer key questions about extended leave as an accommodation, such as:
- What impact has the absence had on the work unit?
- What is the monetary cost of the absence?
- Could temporary staff be hired to fill the position?
- What impact has absence had on service delivery?
A business case
Once the template is completed, I’ll go through everything with HR to make sure it was filled out correctly.
Because this type of leave is complex, I’ll also provide an overview of the
analysis-template concept to supervisors and HR pros through training sessions.
Then, every specific extended leave request is handled on a case-by-case basis. Armed with the info we gathered through the analysis, we can make a business case for approving or denying the additional leave accommodation.
Invaluable compliance tool
The leave-analysis template gives our supervisors and HR staff one single, concise document outlining the entire decision-making process for extended-leave accommodations.
As a compliance tool, this template has been invaluable. It gives us a documented business reason for granting or denying extended leave as a reasonable accommodation.
And when denials were necessary, this documentation helped us defend and support our decisions.