Does the ADA ever require six months of employee leave? Sure does, says the EEOC.

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Is this the face of a company that would fire an employee who was on leave receiving treatment for breast cancer rather than granting her request for additional leave for more treatment?

Yes indeed according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.According to this press release and this complaint filed in a federal court, the EEOC claims that an Illinois non-profit organization fired an employee after it failed to consider the “short period of additional leave to receive additional treatment” requested by an employee with a disability.

How short? SIX MONTHS!!!

And, according to the EEOC, that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act:

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney Greg Gochanour pointed out that employers have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities that enable them to perform the essential functions of their job. Courts have repeatedly found that in certain circumstances, a leave of absence may constitute a reasonable accommodation under the ADA….

Gochanour said, “Anyone suffering from breast cancer has enough to face and overcome without her employer violating federal law and denying her adequate leave to combat her illness.  When such a situation sadly occurs, the EEOC is ready to step in and fight for people who are fighting discrimination as well as cancer.” 

We’ve seen something like this before where the employer emerged victorious and Justice Gorsuch stomped a mudhole in extended leave as a reasonable accommodation before walking it dry. Ayo, even the Family and Medical Leave Act, which applies to employers with 50 or more employees, doesn’t mandate six months of leave. Rather, an eligible employee can take “just” 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period.

Still, it’s important for employers to remember that reasonable accommodations are measured on a case-by-case basis. While most employer don’t have the wherewithal (like Wal-Mart, for example) to accommodate extended leaves of more than six months, inflexible-leave policies will have you up the creek without a paddle.

So, while your mileage may vary, it’s best to approach each reasonable-accommodation situation with an open mind. Engage in a good-faith, interactive dialogue to determine what, if anything, can be done to allow the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job without creating undue hardship for the business.

 

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