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Considering employee leave policies as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA

Posted By on September 11, 2016

A recent decision and guideline from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding employee leave policy is worth to take time and consider. First of all, the consequences of failure to follow such a direction would be ending up either $9 million dollars for one case or $8.6 million for other to resolve allegations brought by EEOC in the charge of discrimination against employees with disabilities.

At the core of this two events are lack of clear line and information defining what employers should have known and followed in terms of giving out company’s HR policy. Such a monetary penalty might be only temporary solution, therefore a detailed, solid action plan following EEOC’s guideline would be the best way of preventing any further harm to the company’s image and productivity in the future.

In its guidance, EEOC defines the “equal access to leave” for both disabled and non-disabled employees when it comes to requesting paid leave. As a result, if someone asks for a paid leave for ADA purpose, it should be handled as same as the other cases under the non-ADA purposes within the company’s existing policy. If the employer asks for doctor’s confirmation documentation in such case would become an issue equally for either disabled or non-disabled employee. The clear line between the purpose of requesting sick leave and supporting proof as part of approving process now becomes generalized and no single case should be handled differently, only because some employees have different personal situation.

Another important guideline from EEOC is that employer should treat all the request for leave with medical reasons as an appropriate ADA accommodation. This same translation can be applied even when an employee did not specifically asked for the leave as an accommodation. Another case would be when the employer considers unpaid leave in excess of the permitted number of days under the leave policy. In any case, the deep underlying purposes of providing this guideline is to initiate a meaningful interactive process between employer and employee, so that positive and healthy work environments can be possibly created going forward, instead of negative and hostile lawsuit actions. Also keep their employees informed of new change in the policy by means of written letter notification is very important steps to follow.

Together, employers and employees are always encouraged to review the existing leave policies and other HR related matters.