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Employment Law Update

May 30, 2023

U.S. Department of Labor: FMLA Leave Can Be Indefinite – According to the CDC, 60% of Americans live with at least one chronic disease, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Chronic disease in the United States is expected to worsen among all age groups over the next several decades, and workplaces have to deal with the impact of chronic disease on the workforce. It is important for employers to be familiar with Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) regulations as chronic disease will continue to be a concern.

On February 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter in response to a question from an employer. The letter explained that the FMLA allows certain employees with chronic serious health conditions to limit their workday for an indefinite period of time as long as the employee does not exhaust their FMLA leave entitlement.

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period because of a serious health condition. If an employee using FMLA leave to limit their work schedule uses less than 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period, then the employee can potentially do so indefinitely as long as they continue to be eligible for leave.

For example, in the opinion letter, the Department of Labor explained that “if an employee would normally be required to work more than eight hours a day but is unable to do so because of an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee may use FMLA leave for the remainder of each shift, and the hours which the employee would have otherwise been required to work are counted against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement.” Importantly, “if the employee never exhausts their FMLA leave, they may work the reduced schedule indefinitely.” The opinion letter makes clear that this is also true for employees with serious chronic health conditions who use their FMLA leave intermittently.

The Department of Labor emphasized that employees’ rights under the FMLA are in addition to their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), even when those rights overlap. For example, an employee with a chronic disease may qualify for leave under the FMLA and also qualify for reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

With chronic disease on the rise in the United States, it is vital for employers to comply with workplace regulations such as the ADA and the FMLA. Attorneys at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll can help your workplace review its policies to ensure compliance and assist you in answering your questions and addressing concerns.



About Shuttleworth & Ingersoll

Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C. is a multi-specialty law firm with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Coralville, Iowa, and Waterloo, Iowa, providing legal services to clients in Iowa and around the world. Established in 1854, the firm has grown to become one of Iowa’s largest firms with approximately 60 talented and experienced lawyers who provide a full range of business, litigation, family, and intellectual property legal services. Using a collaborative, team-based approach, Shuttleworth & Ingersoll is able to provide innovative, cost-effective solutions to client problems. For more information, please visit

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