EEOC Aims to Clarify Leave Rights Under the ADA

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On June 8, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public hearing to address leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Whether to provide unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, and how much leave to provide, are common problems for employers. Moreover, mishandling the leave as an accommodation issue is a frequent basis for litigation.

Although the ADA does not specify any particular amount of leave as a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC takes the position that some finite period of unpaid leave may be required. This situation frequently arises when an employee is out on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for a reason that also qualifies as an ADA disability. Employers who automatically terminate employment at the end of FMLA leave without considering whether some amount of additional unpaid leave will allow the employee to return to work face the possibility of litigation under the ADA.

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