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Understanding the differences and similarities between FMLA and ADAAA

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When employees are faced with challenging or life-altering situations, such as illness, disability, or the birth or death of a family member, they may require additional support from their organization. The federal government has made sure that employees are entitled to this support by federal law, via the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)—which grant job protection during temporary leave and the right to reasonable accommodations for disabilities within the workplace, respectively.

Practice administrators often have difficulty navigating the complex world of FMLA and ADAAA when employees are in need of assistance or temporary leave, as it can be challenging to determine how and when each may apply. To further complicate matters, both FMLA and ADAA may run concurrently with one another in many cases.

Understanding the similarities and differences between FMLA and ADAAA can help practice leaders more effectively serve employees in need while remaining compliant with current legislation.

Here’s a quick overview of each law:


FMLA provides job protection for employees who need to take unpaid leave due to a qualifying event. Qualifying events for FMLA include birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care; caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; employee’s own serious health condition; and, military family leave. Though FMLA only provides job security, employees are also permitted to use vacation, sick pay, short-term disability, or company leave policy pay when applicable.

Private organizations that employ at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius and have 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year are considered FMLA-covered employers.

Eligible individuals are employees who have worked:

  • Any part of the calendar week for 20 weeks, either consecutive or non-consecutive
  • For the employer for at least one year prior to FMLA start date
  • At least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior


ADAAA protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination in the workplace and mandates that reasonable accommodation must be made to ensure those employees have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

The ADAAA applies to organizations that employ at least 15 workers for 20 weeks during the current or preceding calendar year. To be covered under the ADAAA, the employee must have a record of or be regarded as having a substantial impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities or bodily functions.

Employers are required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment or modification provided by an employer to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

To learn more about how FMLA and ADAAA may apply to employees in your practice, listen to our May 2019 HR|Experts webinar “Demystifying FMLA and ADAAA.”

Dee Brown is Curi’s on-call human resources consultant. Members may contact her directly at or 919-431-6096.

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