Inflexible leave policies violate Americans with Disabilities Act

Q&A with Roberta Fields

published in The Oklahoman | August 23, 2017

Inflexible or “no fault” leave policies are those that set a defined amount of permitted leave and result in an employee’s termination once that maximum amount has been exhausted. In a Business Q&A with The Oklahoman, labor and employment attorney Roberta Fields discussed why such rigid workforce leave policies — even those that provide generous amounts of leave — can run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

She cited a recent case in which delivery and logistics giant UPS paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged the company’s rigid leave policy forced out disabled employees who needed accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the company’s 12-month leave policy was generous, the EEOC claimed it failed to consider the individual needs of each employee and, thus, constituted a failure on UPS’s part to engage in the interactive process, she said.

“Leave for employees with serious medical conditions that could be considered disabilities should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” said Fields. “And even if the employee has exhausted all leave provided by the company, additional unpaid leave may be a required reasonable accommodation.