Does your organization have a blanket policy that limits time off for any reason to no more than 12 consecutive months? If you apply that policy evenhandedly, you don’t have to worry that it violates the ADA’s requirement that you provide reasonable accommodations.
Recent case: The EEOC sued Beall Concrete on behalf of Charles Gentry. Gentry, who was a Redi-Mix concrete truck driver, injured himself when he stood on the concrete chute in an attempt to unhook it from his truck. He lost his balance and fell eight feet to the ground, injuring his back, shoulders, hip and elbow.
Beall Concrete fired Gentry after he missed enough work to violate the company’s maximum leave policy, which stated, “No employee may be off work for any reason (personal leave, medical leave, on the job injury, etc.) more than 12 consecutive months. Any employee who is off work more than 12 consecutive months will be terminated.”
The EEOC argued that the policy was tantamount to refusing a reasonable accommodation, since it meant disabled employees would be terminated instead of accommodated even if accommodation was possible.
The court disagreed. It concluded that as long as the policy was uniformly applied to all employees, it didn’t violate the ADA. (EEOC v. Beall Concrete Enterprises, No. 3:06-CV-1779, ND TX, 2008)
Final note: This is a significant victory for employers. It marks the second time that the EEOC has tried to argue that a blanket discharge policy violates the ADA. The agency lost a similar case in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. No word yet on whether it will appeal this decision.
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