Q. If we let some employees in a department return to work in a light-duty capacity, can we deny other employees that same option? We need to do this because the department no longer can operate properly with half its staff on medical leave or limited to light duty due to medical conditions. The union contract says that when an employee is eligible for medical leave, six months must pass before we may terminate the employee. —D.W., Illinois
A. To determine whether a reasonable accommodation exists under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must look beyond a particular department or business unit to explore whether light-duty work is available in another department. You also must explore other possible reasonable accommodations, such as a leave of absence. Also, the fact that your labor contract provides a six-month “drop dead” policy does not necessarily mean that providing a medical leave of absence exceeding six months is an unreasonable accommodation.
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