Federal and State Laws Associated With Flexible Work

Both managers and employees should be aware of laws that may require providing unpaid leave or flexible work arrangements.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The basic premise of the federal ADA is to protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Under the ADA and other laws, the university will provide reasonable accommodation(s) to employees with known disabilities, if an accommodation is needed to enable them to perform their essential job duties unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. In order for a faculty member, staff member, or applicant to receive accommodations, they must notify the university and engage in the interactive process. Per ADA guidelines, reasonable accommodations may include granting a leave of absence or modified work schedules.

When considering potential accommodations related to flexible work arrangements, there are a number of resources such as the university’s Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office, and the  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The primary purpose of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and subsequent amendments is to assist employees in balancing work and family life. The University of Michigan has long recognized the importance of providing assistance to employees in meeting legitimate family obligations. As a result, longstanding University policy and practice provide for a generous amount of paid and unpaid time away from work for the reasons recognized by the FMLA.

Eligibility, qualifying reasons, processes to request time off work, and the rights and responsibilities of the university and employees under the FMLA are available from the FMLA guide. FMLA may also be used intermittently or to support a reduced schedule when the university receives acceptable medical documentation.  Examples include:

  • An employee may take leave on an occasional basis for medical appointments, or several days at a time spread over a period of six months, such as for chemotherapy.

  • A pregnant employee may take leave intermittently for prenatal examinations or for her own condition, such as for periods of severe morning sickness.

  • An employee who is recovering from a serious health condition and is not medically able to work a full-time schedule may take reduced leave.

Finally, it is important to note that several states have enacted laws that provide different types and amounts of family and medical leave, in addition to the federal FMLA. Be sure to check the laws in your state.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

The federal PPACA provides, among other things, certain requirements for employers with respect to accommodating nursing mothers in the workforce

Employers covered by this law must provide breaks to nursing mothers for the purpose of expressing breast milk. Employers need not compensate employees for this break time. However, while the law does not require these breaks to be paid (and specifically states they can be unpaid), most employers likely already provide their employees a few paid breaks throughout a standard shift and must allow employees to use/exhaust these paid breaks for purposes of pumping breast milk.

When considering flexible work options, become familiar with employment laws that may be associated with these arrangements such as wage and hour laws, including meal and break times, and what constitutes hours worked.  For more information about laws outside of Michigan or the United States, please visit the remote employment policies and agreements site.