Absence Matters: ADA and Leave Rights Intersection

DMEC Staff@Work

When ADA and Leave Rights Intersect: Who’s on First, What’s on Second?

By Adam Morell, JD

Director National Compliance, ADA Accommodations

How does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intersect with other types of leave? This question can prove vexing for employers when faced with the simultaneous needs of the employee, the organization, and compliance.

This article will focus on two scenarios impacted by the ADA: (1) when an employee can work, but with restrictions, upon expiration of a company-sponsored or statutory leave, and (2) after finishing such a leave, an employee needs the accommodation of additional leave

Work Restrictions

The ADA requires an employer to grant an employee’s request to work with medical restrictions so long as those restrictions don’t present an undue hardship to the organization. Presume you have a package car driver who has an essential job function of lifting 25 pounds. This employee takes 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA to recuperate from back surgery. Upon expiration of the 12 weeks, the employee is released to return to work, but with a 10-pound lifting restriction for an additional month. The ADA would then kick in, and the employer would need to interactively dialogue with the employee and determine if it was reasonable to allow the package car driver to lift no more than 10 pounds for a month. If it couldn’t grant the request, the employer and employee would continue dialoguing to determine if there is another accommodation that works for both sides.

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