Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Stay Compliant and Stay Ahead: Mastering Leave Management and Avoiding Costly Penalties | Brown & Brown Absence Services Group

Understanding and adhering to the complexities of leave management and accommodation is essential for employers, especially with the rigorous scrutiny from United States federal agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor and state counterparts. Non-compliance with absence and accommodation laws can lead to substantial financial penalties and significant legal consequences. Being prepared to navigate the multitude of federal and state laws requiring paid and unpaid leave of absence, disability accommodations and pregnancy protections is key to avoiding violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), and other relevant legislation.

The importance of adherence: Legal risks and financial penalties

Failing to abide by state and federal workplace legislation can place a significant financial burden on an employer. The EEOC, which is responsible for enforcing the federal disability and pregnancy protection laws, filed more than 29,000 charges of employment discrimination on the basis of disability in its 2023 fiscal year, resulting in over $144 million paid in monetary damages to affected employees. And the PWFA is waiting in the wings!  When pursuing a lawsuit, the EEOC considers several factors, such as the strength of the evidence of the allegation, the issues presented in the case and the broader impact the lawsuit could have on future efforts to combat workplace discrimination. Recently settled filings include:

    • $145,000 settlement: An 18-year employee of a car dealership underwent bypass heart surgery. Before returning from leave, the employer told the employee she needed to retire, or she would be fired because he did not feel she could do her job any longer.
    • $205,000 settlement : A pregnant employee of a drugstore chain asked to leave work for medical complications; the request was denied because she had asked for “too many accommodations.” The employee resigned and miscarried later that day.
    • $750,000 settlement: A utility company required employees to be released following medical leave to “full duty” or “without medical restrictions.” Employees with restrictions were placed on unpaid leave without consideration of accommodations and then terminated.

Monetary damages are only a part of the consequences for employers who fail to adhere to leave, accommodation, and pregnancy protection legislation. In addition, the employer will experience substantial attorney fees, business disruptions and productivity losses across management and human resources teams. Also of great consequence, settlement of an EEOC disability or pregnancy-related case almost always results in a consent decree – a court order – under which the employer must make significant concessions, which will often include:

    • Equitable relief to the affected employee(s), such as reinstatement or promotion,
    • Revisions to employment policies and performance standards,
    • Mandatory annual ADA training for all levels of employees,
    • The appointment of a compliance monitor,
    • Workplace posting of consent decrees and
    • Extended reporting and EEOC oversight for up to five years.

Absence & Accommodation Consulting Services
To support the increasing volume and complexity of paid and unpaid leave and accommodation programs, Brown & Brown has expanded our consulting capabilities to provide meaningful support and actionable guidance to carriers, employers and third-party administrators who manage and pay these benefits. ⁠Absence & Accommodation Consulting Services offer comprehensive support for entities grappling with the complexities of the leave and accommodations landscape and are concerned about the risks inherent in mismanaging their obligations.

Our services include:

General Program Consultation: Gain insights into federal and state requirements for leaves of absence, disability and pregnancy accommodations and protections for employees. Understand your risks and develop resources to manage these employee rights proactively.

Leave of Absence Management: We conduct detailed reviews of your current practices, help identify gaps and align your policies with statutory requirements, covering federal FMLA, state equivalents and other specific leave types.

Disability Accommodation Management: Similar to our leave of absence services, we review and improve your disability management processes to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave: Stay updated with the latest pregnancy protections and provide compliant parental leave. We help you integrate these policies with current mandates, focusing on the latest federal acts and guidance.

Taking the next steps: Mitigating risks and penalties
Consulting a seasoned professional in absence and accommodations management, such as Brown & Brown Absence Services Group, can help with the proper handling of leave and accommodation requests and pregnancy protections. Our team of seasoned professionals, who are up to date on the latest guidelines and industry best practices, can provide the guidance employers need to navigate these complex issues.

Contact Brown & Brown to learn how our team of professionals, with extensive experience in workplace accommodations and ADA issues, can best assist you.