Absence Matters: Compliance Strategy

DMEC Staff@Work

Key Compliance Strategy: Stay Current

By Bryon Bass, CLMS

SVP Workforce Absence

Unlike the clearly-defined Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not limit or quantify leaves. For example, FMLA provides 12 weeks of leave per year. Under the ADA, however, leave is not limited per se; rather, an employer must determine if the amount of leave that the employee has requested presents an undue hardship. Conflicts among recent court rulings illustrate that remaining current and up to date on compliance matters is essential.

In a 7th Circuit case, Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft Inc., an employee took 12 weeks of FMLA leave for a back injury. On the last day, the employee had surgery and requested an additional two months of continued medical leave to recover. Heartland Woodcraft did not engage in the interactive process, denied the request for additional leave, and terminated his employment.

The court sided with the employer. While the ADA may require days or even weeks of medical leave, the court held that a two- to three month leave is not a reasonable ADA accommodation, so the employer was not obligated to participate in an interactive process. Further, the court characterized the ADA as an “anti-discrimination” statute, not a “leave entitlement” statute.

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