Inflexible Leave Policies Can Be Costly

By: Storrs Downey

A large international industrial company recently agreed to pay $140,000 to settle a federal court disability suit brought by the EEOC. An employee with cancer was reportedly fired for poor attendance. The employee requested unpaid leave to attend medical appointments and treatment for her serious health condition. The company allegedly declined to provide such leave on the basis that their policy did not provide the same for inside sales representatives. The EEOC sternly argued this policy was in violation of the ADA and was not a reasonable accommodation policy and practice.

In contrast, our employment attorneys successfully argued and won a somewhat similar case before the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). An employee with cancer requested medical leave, which the employer consistently accommodated. The IDHR determined that the employer properly explored potential alternative dates off work with the employee, in line with the interactive accommodation process.

Practice Tip: It is important that employers have flexible leave policies and engage in a meaningful interactive accommodation process with any employees with medical conditions requiring leaves of absence.

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