OD Chatter: Must Small Business Owners Follow Federal FMLA and ADA Directives?


Dear OD Chatter,

I am a small business owner and wonder if FMLA is something I have to honor here in PA? One of my employees has asked me to change her hours from 8-5 to 10-7 for what I guess is an acceptable medical reason. I’m normally open from 8 to 5 but I’m often here until about 6.

Now the problem is that she would be the only person in the office from about 6pm on. I have offered to change her hours to 9-6 but she refuses and states that I have to accommodate her request under the FMLA law. Is this true?

What options do I have? My company is about 10 years old and I have about 25 employees staying open those hours is not a good thing either. Thank you for any help you can offer.


Small guy

Plymouth Meeting, PA

Dear Small guy,

FMLA is a federal law and some states do have their own form of family leave. Here in PA, that is not the case. However there may be an intersection of two laws here: the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

Private sector organizations with 49 or less employees are not bound by the FMLA laws unless you operate a school or are a public agency in which case you would be bound by the FMLA laws even if you have less than 49 employees. Use this link to the FMLA fact sheet that will give you more details: https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf

Small businesses who are not bound by the FMLA laws will often allow their employees to have family leave as a company benefit and that is a decision you as the owner / employer get to make. If you decide to offer family leave, you will need to create your own corporate policy and add it to your employee handbook.

I want to caution you that if you do create a policy allowing family medical leave, you will be held legally responsible for administering that benefit fairly and consistently to all of your employees. As long as you don’t have a policy, you do not have to honor it.

Another concern is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. You mention that your employee has a medical reason for her request. The ADA federal law applies to all private employers who have 15 or more employees. You can find more details at this link: https://www.ada.gov/employment.htm

The ADA requires reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. Adjusting work schedules is considered a reasonable request however you do not have to adjust your business hours outside of what is normal for your industry.

Having said all of this, if your employee is a valued employee then by all means, find a middle ground where everyone can be comfortable.

Thank you for sending us your workplace question!

OD Chatter

OD Chatter is written by Debra Dee Bradford, CHRO of ODL Business Partners, Inc. (www.odlbp.com) an HR consulting firm specializing in organizational development and leadership training. She can be reached at dbradford@odlbp.com. Or, send your workplace related questions to OD Chatter at marlenab@odlbp.com.

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