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Extra leave isn’t always ADA accommodation

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The FMLA and the ADA are supposed to work together so employees who need some time off for serious health conditions and disabilities don’t lose their jobs.

The FMLA grants employees with a serious health condition up to 12 weeks off per year; the ADA allows additional absences as a reasonable accommodation when a disabling condition flares up.

Fortunately for employers, there are limits—especially for jobs that require regular attendance. That’s especially true when the disabled employer’s production process depends on everyone being in place. Employers must allow those 12 weeks off, but they likely don’t have to accommodate additional absences that disrupt production.

Recent case: LaShaunna, who worked in a factory with tight production schedules, developed migraine headaches. She used up all her FMLA leave, plus vacation and other available leave when she had to leave in the middle of the day.

Then her doctor requested a reasonable accommodation, including immediate “rest for 15-30 minutes” during the workday to “take her medications and allow time for medications to be effective.” If that didn’t work, he recommended allowing her to go home and return later during the shift if she felt better.

The employer nixed the request, reasoning that this was akin to allowing LaShaunna to come and go as she pleased. It then fired her. She sued, alleging disability discrimination.

But the court sided with the employer, noting that it had already accommodated absences under the FMLA. It didn’t need to disrupt production further. (Banks v. Bosch, No. 14-5486, 6th Cir., 2015)

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