Tough HR issues: ADA and extending a leave of absence

Depression-loss of loved oneAlright smarties. One of ABC Company’s employees suffers from post-partum depression. She’s been out of work for over a month, and the company wants to replace her. But, first, it wants your advice. 

Read all the facts below:

Emily Employee is an HR Coordinator at ABC Company. ABC provides short-term disability benefits for regular full-time employee like Emily. Last year, Emily began a 12-week maternity leave under the FMLA, during which time she received STD benefits. She returned to work with no restrictions.

Earlier this year, in late January, Emily met with her supervisor and requested a 30-day leave for post-partum depression. Emily’s doctor faxed a letter to ABC requesting that Emily remain off work until late February. ABC approved her leave. In late February, Emily provided a second doctor’s note stating that the post-partum had not resolved and Emily would need to remain out of work until early April. Emily submitted a medical certification form in mid-March.

Emily’s supervisor comes to you with concerns that Emily’s continued absences are problematic and creating workflow issues within HR. During her leave of absence, other employees in HR have also picked up some of Emily’s duties. However, the majority of Emily’s work has been performed by a temporary employee, Temporary Tammy.

ABC is considering terminating Emily before she returns in April and replacing her full-time with Tammy in May. However, Tammy will not be able to start until August (she too is pregnant).

So, what do you tell ABC? Let me know in the comments below.

(Later today, I’ll post a link to a recent federal court decision discussing this very issue)

UPDATE: Here is the case. An Indiana federal court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment on this issue, suggesting (but not concluding) that an extended leave would have been reasonable. Further, the facts here appear to undercut any argument that attendance was an essential job function. But, the court wouldn’t go so far as to say the employer was wrong for terminating “Emily.” That will be up to a jury to decide.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”