Accommodation can include FMLA leave to avoid OT

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Sometimes employers must require their employees to work overtime to meet production goals. That can be a problem if one of the workers has a disability that prevents him from working more than 40 hours per week. It might be easier on the employee if the company approved an ADA accommodation that simply avoided assigning him overtime hours.

However, that’s not necessary. It’s perfectly legal to require that the employee use accumulated sick time and FMLA leave to avoid those overtime hours.

Recent case: William Santacrose suffers from a back injury that prevents him from sitting more than eight consecutive hours. When first placed on the medical restriction, his employer, CSX, allowed him to skip overtime as a reasonable accommodation. Then, after being approved for intermittent leave under the FMLA, CSX informed Santacrose that it was withdrawing his prior accommodation. He had to use sick and FMLA leave if he couldn’t work overtime.

That’s when Santacrose sued, arguing he shouldn’t have to use that leave to cover mandatory overtime.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It noted that an employer doesn’t have to accept the accommodation the employee prefers as long as the accommodation it offers meets the disabled employee’s needs.

In this case, the company never disciplined Santacrose for missing mandatory overtime, but instead let him use his accumulated leave. The court said that was perfectly reasonable. (Santacrose v. CSX Transportation, No. 07-15532, 11th Cir., 2008)

Final note: Left unanswered in this case is what happens if Santacrose runs out of sick and FMLA leave to cover mandatory overtime. If that happens, the employer would probably have to reconsider allowing him to skip overtime until he has again accumulated sick or FMLA leave. 

Leave a Comment