• Don't Ignore Extended Leave as a Possible Accommodation for Disabled Employees
  • September 7, 2016 | Authors: Robert D. Haws; John J. Kastner; James W. Kaucher; Shelby M. Lile; Jennifer N. MacLennan; Susan Plimpton Segal
  • Law Firms: Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C. - Phoenix Office; Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C. - Tucson Office; Gust Rosenfeld P.L.C. - Phoenix Office
  • On July 8, the EEOC announced that it has filed a lawsuit against a company that allegedly discriminated against disabled workers by, among other things, "applying inflexible and rigid medical leave policies" in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    In May, the EEOC settled a lawsuit for $8.6 million against another company which allegedly terminated employees whose medical leave of absence exceeded the company's maximum leave policy. The EEOC also issued a resource document related employer-provided leave and the ADA.

    This recent activity shows the EEOC's emphasis on the review of employers' leave policies and the potential use of a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation. Even if an employee is not eligible for leave under the employer's policies or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or the employee exhausts all leave provided by policies and the FMLA, the employer should consider whether providing additional unpaid leave would be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

    Whether or not such leave is reasonable or creates an undue hardship generally depends on the facts of each case. The EEOC is clear, however, that indefinite leave (when an employee cannot say when he will be able to return to work) does not have to be provided.