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Time off may be reasonable accommodation

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees aren’t very reliable. You know the type: They call in sick with the slightest excuses, often before a scheduled day off or to extend a long weekend. Some­­times, right before you are about to discipline them for absenteeism, they call in again. Frus­­trat­­ing, right?

But what if your employee claims she had a medical emergency and that she has a doctor’s excuse? What you do next could spell the difference between winning or losing an ADA reasonable accommodations lawsuit.

Recent case: Kylea had just started as a nursing assistant at a Veterans Administration (VA) facility when she began asking for time off. First, she requested her first Friday off to work on a school project. Then she called in before coming into work on Thursday due to an “intestinal issue.” Her supervisors approved the time off, but warned her about attendance.

Her second week went fine. She then worked the first two days of her third week, but called in the morning of the third day. By now, her boss wanted to fire her. However, Kylea explained that she had to miss work because she just got out of the emergency room following an epileptic seizure.

She was fired and sued, alleging failure to accommodate.

The employer argued Kylea hadn’t asked for accommodations or let them know she was dis­­abled. The court ruled a jury should decide the case. It said mentioning epilepsy and asking for time off could be construed as a request for reasonable accommodations. (Sutherland v. Shin­­seki, No. 11-3118, DC MN, 2013)

Final note: If the employee cites a medical diagnosis and says she has a doctor’s excuse, consider whether calling in sick may be a request for a reasonable accommodation.

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