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I Asked For an Extended Leave of Absence Beyond 12 Weeks, and My New Jersey Employer Said ‘No.’ What Can I Do?

work cubiclesAs a worker, there may be various circumstances under which you might need to take an extended leave of absence. These disabling conditions could range from physical issues (like a high-risk pregnancy, major surgery, or cancer treatment) to psychological ones (like inpatient treatment for bipolar disorder or OCD). When these things happen, your condition might dictate that you need several months away from work. Sometimes, though, an employer might seek to deny a worker any leave beyond the minimum that the laws (the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act) require. When your employer does that, do you have any recourse through the legal system? The answer is that you might. Be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorney without delay to learn more about your case.

Workers who experience conditions that render them temporarily but totally disabled are entitled to the same protections under the law as any other employees with disabilities. This means that these workers are entitled to receive accommodations for their disabilities as long as the requested accommodations are reasonable and will not place undue hardships on the workers’ employers.

All workers employed by employers of 50 people or more are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA and the NJFLA. Taking leave that spans more than 12 weeks can potentially be trickier. If you and your doctor have concluded that you will need to be away from work for more than 12 weeks, it is important to provide notice and get that request for extended leave before your employer as soon as you have the written documentation from your doctor that you need to make the request.

Once you’ve made your request, your employer must act. If the employer rejects your request for a reasonable accommodation, you may have a case for disability discrimination. This type of case will, in terms of what you need to prove, look much like most disability discrimination cases. You have to show that you qualified as disabled under New Jersey law, that you were qualified to do the job with or without the accommodation, and that your employer took an adverse employment action against you.

Keep in mind that, even if the exact accommodation you requested wasn’t reasonable under the law, you may still have a case if the employer offered you no accommodation at all. The simple act of asking for an accommodation – any accommodation – triggers a legal obligation on the part of the employer to engage, in good faith, in an “interactive process” with you to assess whether or not there was some type of accommodation that was reasonable and not unduly burdensome to the employer. In 2009, a federal case from New Jersey allowed a worker to continue pursuing his case in a situation like this. The worker, who’d undergone heart surgery, asked for light-duty work. The employer refused and terminated the employee. The court allowed the worker to pursue his case in court, saying that, while light-duty work may not have been a reasonable accommodation, an extension of leave beyond the required 12 weeks arguably was reasonable, and the employer potentially violated the law by not investigating whether extended leave or something else might work as a reasonable accommodation.

The law is clear that, if an accommodation is reasonable and is not unduly burdensome on the employer, an employer must accommodate that employee’s disability. If you have been denied the reasonable accommodation of extended leave, you may have a viable discrimination case. The hardworking New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have spent many years diligently helping our clients with disabilities ensure that they get the fair opportunities in the workplace that they desire and deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

What are My Employer’s Obligations to Provide an Accommodation of My Workplace Disability in New Jersey?, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 11, 2018

What Does Illegal Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Look Like According to New Jersey Law?, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, May 31, 2018

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