What are my rights as a kidney patient if my employer wants me to return to work?

Updated May 27, 2020


There are laws to protect people with chronic conditions and illnesses from discrimination in the workplace. Your legal rights may be protected by one of the following federal acts.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires your employer to make any “reasonable accommodations” that you might need in order to perform your work duties.

Examples include:

  • Making parking lots, bathrooms, and work areas handicapped accessible

  • Allowing you to work from home if possible, in your current role

  • Having flexible work schedules (to schedule around dialysis treatments for example)

  • Designating a sterile area to exchange cleansing fluid bags for PD

  • Reassigning you to a less strenuous job if you request one and one is available

  • Assigning any of your non-essential tasks to other employees, at your request

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles complaints under the ADA.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If you work at least 20 weeks of the year for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons.

If you had group health insurance coverage before taking leave, it will continue under the same terms or conditions.

Your employer can ask for medical certification stating that you have a serious illness but cannot punish you for taking leave to have surgery or begin treatment. Your spouse, children, or parents may also be eligible for FMLA leave if you need them to provide you with care or transportation.

The Department of Labor (DOL) handles complaints under FMLA.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

You may also have protected rights under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act – which includes the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) – or other state and local laws.

The FMLA Expansion Act provides 12 weeks of leave. If you are a full-time employee, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides 80 hours of leave. If you are a part-time employee, the law provides leave for the average number of hours you work in a two-week period. Currently these provisions expire December 31, 2020.

For more information, including suggestions for writing a letter to your employer requesting work accommodations because you are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19, click here.

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